VIIRS Day Night Band imagery of Beta off the coast of Texas
Suomi NPP overflew Tropical Storm Beta off the coast of Texas shortly after 0820 UTC on 21 September (NPP orbits over North America on 21 September are shown below, taken from this site). Day Night band visible imagery shows the swirl of clouds at the center of the storm, off the coast of Texas south of Houston/Galveston and east of Corpus Christi. The 11.45 µm infrared imagery (created using CSPP software and the DB data at CIMSS, and available to NWS offices via an LDM feed) shows the convection that surrounds this center, and also the stronger convection over the Gulf of Mexico to the east.
Both visible and infrared imagery in this case show the storm center. That is not always the case. Sometimes the Day Night band alone identifies the storm center without ambiguity. The Day Night Band at 0813 observed no lightning. The light sources over the open Gulf of Mexico south of Louisiana are drilling platforms.
The Suomi NPP pass over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, above, from 06 UTC, shows one horizontal streak of brightness in the central Gulf that is a lighting bolt. The Geostationary Lightning Mapper on GOES-16 also observed lightning flashes — how do the two observations compare?
To make that comparison, it’s necessary to determine exactly when Suomi-NPP overflew the eastern Gulf, and that’s suggested in the orbital path figure above. The time stamp for satellite imagery is not the precise time that scanning occurred; historically, the nominal time of an image is the time of the first scan line in the image. For this descending Suomi NPP pass (the satellite is moving from north to south), that time stamp — 0633 UTC — occurred when Suomi NPP was far north of CONUS, north of Quebec. (Similarly, the time of the 0813 UTC pass shown above has a time stamp when the Satellite was viewing north of Hudson Bay! During the afternoon, the time stamp for those ascending passes (the satellite is moving from south to north) occurs when the satellite is far south of CONUS). The actual orbit path mapping suggests a scan time over the Gulf Coast at 0643 or 0644 UTC. Toggles between the Day Night Band image with the lightning streak and the GLM 1-minute observations at 0643 UTC and at 0644 UTC are shown below. It appears that the 0644 UTC data better matches the Day Night band imagery, but the comparison is by no means obvious. This bears further investigation!