Using Polar-Orbiting Satellite Imagery from Direct Broadcast sites to understand Elsa

July 6th, 2021 |

Suomi NPP Adapative Day Night Band imagery, 0636 UTC on 6 July 2021 (Click to enlarge)

AOML (The Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory) maintains a Direct Broadcast antenna site that holds satellite imagery (created using CSPP — the Community Satellite Processing Package) created when a tropical system — such as Elsa — is within the download footprint of the AOML antenna.  This imagery — particularly in the microwave — is useful to describe the system’s structure. The Day Night Band image above, from Suomi NPP at 0636 UTC, shows a non-symmetric storm with the bulk of clouds to the east and south of the surface center (at that time near 23.9 N, 82.3 W, i.e., in the Florida Straits to the south of Dry Tortuga).  Rainfall, as diagnosed using MIRS algorithms and microwave ATMS (Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder) data from NPP, below, shows the asymmetry of the storm as well:  almost all the diagnosed rain is east of the center. (It’s helpful that both infrared imagers and microwave sounders are on the same satellite!)

Suomi NPP ATMS-derived Rain Rate, 0637 UTC on 6 July 2021 (Click to enlarge)

The GCOM-W1 (supported by JAXA) satellite also scanned Elsa shortly before 0700 UTC on 6 July.  Microwave observations at ~36 GHz, below, and at 89 GHz, farther below, can help to characterize the structure of the storm. Indeed, observations at/around 85-89 GHz are used in the MIMIC TC product as described here.

GCOM AMSR-2 observations at 36.5 GHz, 0649 UTC on 6 July 2021 (Click to enlarge)

GCOM AMSR-2 observations at 89.0 GHz, 0649 UTC on 6 July 2021 (Click to enlarge)

In addition to the AOML site, the CIMSS Direct Broadcast site contains Polar Orbiting imagery in near-real time. The afternoon 88.2 GHz image from (NOAA-20) ATMS is shown below.  Cold cloud tops associated with strong scattering by ice of the 88.2 GHz signal are apparent.

NOAA-20 ATMS Channel 16 Brightness Temperature, 1845 UTC on 6 July 2021 (Click to enlarge)


There are a multitude of polar orbiters such that observations show up in clusters of time.  However, for a better time animation, it’s still best to rely on GOES-16!  The animation below, from CSPP Geosphere, shows a sheared storm south and west of Ft Myers FL.  Indeed, an 1800 UTC 6 July 2021 shear analysis from the CIMSS Tropical website (here, from this site), shows westerly shear of 25-30 knots.

GOES-16 True-Color imagery, 6 July 2021 from 1730 to 1920 UTC (Click to animate)

For the latest information on Elsa, consult the webpages of the National Hurricane Center, or the SSEC/CIMSS Tropical Weather Page.

Subtropical storm in the South Pacific

May 27th, 2021 |

GOES-17

GOES-17 “Red” Visible (0.64 um) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 (GOES-West) “Red” Visible (0.64 um) images (above) showed the development of a subtropical storm in the South Pacific Ocean (just northeast of New Zealand) on 27 May 2021. Surface analyses from the New Zealand Met Service are available here.

GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 um) images (below) highlighted the curved band of cold-topped convection wrapping into the deepening storm.

GOES-17 "Clean" Infrared Window (10.3 um) images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-17 “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 um) images [click to play animation | MP4]

A NOAA-20 Infrared Window (11.45 um) image viewed using RealEarth (below) showed a higher resolution view of the band of cold clouds wrapping into the system at 1206 UTC.

NOAA-20 Infrared Window (11.45 um) image [click to enlarge]

NOAA-20 Infrared Window (11.45 um) image [click to enlarge]

With ample illumination from the Moon — in the Waning Gibbous phase, at 98% of Full — a Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 um) image (below) provided a high-quality “visible image at night” at 1256 UTC (12:56 am NZST).

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 um) image [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP VIIRS Day/Night Band (0.7 um) image [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP ATMS Microwave (183.3 GHz) image

Suomi NPP ATMS Microwave (183.3 GHz) image (credit: Derrick Herndon, CIMSS) [click to enlarge]

A Suomi NPP ATMS Microwave (183.3 GHz) image (above) portrayed the spiral band wrapping into the core of the system at 1256 UTC, while a cross section of Suomi NPP ATMS Brightness Temperature anomaly (below) depicted the deep warm core (shades of green) characteristic of the subtropical cyclone.

Cross section of Suomi NPP ATMS Brightness Temperature anomaly [click to enlarge]

Cross section of Suomi NPP ATMS Brightness Temperature anomaly (credit: Derrick Herndon, CIMSS) [click to enlarge]

Using ATMS data to observe lake ice coverage over the Great Lakes

February 16th, 2021 |

ATMS Ice Concentration over the Great Lakes, from overlapping ascending Suomi-NPP passes on 30 January and 15 February 2021 (Click to enlarge)

CIMSS produces Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder (ATMS) Lake Ice concentration images in a format that can be inserted into AWIPS.  These images are created from data downloaded (available at this ftp site;  imagery is also available here) at the DB antennae at CIMSS, and processed with MIRS algorithms (all MIRS products are available at this NOAA Website) that are incorporated into CSPP.   This document (from ESA) includes a figure showing how emissivities of ice and water differ, allowing for discrimination between ice and open water.  The differences are especially large at lower frequencies.

The animation below from NOAA/NESDIS of ice concentration over the USA (including the Great Lakes) (source) shows obvious increases and decreases in ice concentration;  given the general very cold conditions over the Great Lakes during this time (especially over Lakes Michigan and Superior), the reduction in ice cover on 14-15 February is inconsistent with the cold weather.

Ice coverage increases from 10-13 February and then decreases.  This change in ice coverage matches view angle changes from the ATMS instrument on Suomi NPP, and those view angle changes affect the spatial resolution of the measurements.  There was a near-nadir afternoon pass on 10 February, and diagnosed ice in Lake Michigan was at a minimum;  ascending pass views of Lake Michigan on 12 and 13 February are near the limb and diagnosed ice over Lake Michigan reached a maximum;  the view was near nadir again on 15 February when, again, diagnosed lake ice was at a minimum.  (Suomi NPP Orbit paths are available here).  It is important when using Ice Coverage data to know the view angle from the satellite!

NPP MIRS Ice Coverage, 4 – 15 February 2021, from Ascending (afternoon) Passes (Click to enlarge)

MIRS algorithms to compute Ice Concentration use information from ATMS channels 1, 2, 3, 16 and 17.  These 5 channels have footprints ranging from 15 to 75 km (at satellite nadir), as shown in the image below, from this paper. Note especially how the footprints increase in size at the limb:  channel 17’s footprint ranges from 15×15 km at nadir to 68×30 km at the limb!   A challenge in using ATMS is that the microwave footprint can easily observe both land and water, in which case the microwave data will not give values representative of the lake coverage.

Scanning geometry for 22 ATMS channels. The figure includes footprint sizes at nadir and at the limb (Click to enlarge)

The figure below shows circles with diameters of 15, 50 and 75 km;  the smaller circle is the approximate nadir footprint of channel 16 and 17 at ATMS;  the larger circle is the approximate nadir footprint of channels 1 and 2.  Lake Ice resolution from MIRS might be considered to be of the order of 50 km.

Circles with diameters of 15, 50 and 75 km in Lakes Michigan, Huron and (inset) Erie (click to enlarge)

NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP, the two satellites that carry ATMS as part of their payloads, both have 16-day repeats.  That is:  the satellite traces out the same path every 16 days;  in addition, paths are very similar every 5 or 6 days.  See, for example, this toggle of (Suomi NPP) NUCAPS soundings points over the South Pacific ocean, on 25 July and 10 August 2019, 16 days apart.  The same orbit is traced out on these two days.  That is why the ATMS ice concentration plots at the top of this post are from 30 January and 15 February:  16 days apart. The two orbit mappings at the links are identical. The 15 February image of orbits is shown below.

Interpretation of the Ice Concentration imagery at the top of this blog post requires knowledge about the path of Suomi-NPP shown below.  Lake Michigan and western Lake Superior are close to nadir, and there should be some ATMS footprints entirely within those lakes.  Lakes Huron, Erie and Ontario are far enough away that a user might not trust 100% the data being presented.  The ice coverage change between the two days might be useful:  there is a general increase in concentration over coastal Lakes Michigan and Superior.

Predicted Suomi-NPP Orbits for 15 February 2021 (Click to enlarge)

A morning descending pass of Suomi-NPP moved over eastern Lake Ontario, giving the best resolution over that small Great Lake.  The 0659 UTC image from 16 February is shown below.  Notice the difference in Lakes Superior and Michigan between this image (for which Lakes Superior and Michigan are near the limb) and the image at top (for which Lakes Superior and Michigan are near nadir).

Suomi NPP ATMS Estimates of Lake Ice, 0659 UTC on 16 February 2021 (Click to enlarge)

The 15 February 2021 analysis (from this page) from NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) is shown below.  Consider the ATMS imagery as an approximation to the observed field. Care in interpretation of ATMS data is a necessity because of errors that occur when pixels are not entirely over water.  That is a frequent occurrence when the satellite is scanning along the limb.

Ice concentration over the Great Lakes, from GLERL, 15 February 2021 (Click to enlarge)


The toggle below (from this site) highlights resolution differences between ATMS Channel 1 (23.8 GHz), with 75-km resolution at nadir, and ATMS Channel 17 ( 165.5 GHz), with 15-km resolution at nadir.  Note also the differences in the signals between western Lake Erie (ice covered) and eastern Lake Erie (more open water).

ATMS imagery (Channels 1 and 17) derived from Suomi NPP at ~1800 UTC on 17 February 2021 (NPP overflew Buffalo NY on this day) (Click to enlarge)

NOAA-20 VIIRS views of the Great Lakes in December 2020

January 1st, 2021 |

Daily NOAA-20 VIIRS True-Color images over Lake Superior (times as indicated in the captions). Click to animate

As noted here, the ftp site that holds imagery from the CIMSS/SSEC Direct Broadcast site (link) includes daytime True-Color imagery (spectacular imagery!) derived from the NOAA-20 and Suomi-NPP VIIRS instrument. Daily sectorized views of each of the Great Lakes are created, and these can be strung together, as in this web post, to show the changes around the Great Lakes during the month of December. The animation above shows the changes over Lake Superior during December. (Click here to view an mp4 animation rather than the very large animated gif).

The toggle below compares the view over/around Lake Superior on 1 and 31 December 2020. The increase in snowcover is apparent. Ice does not appear widespread on Lake Superior however.  The 31 December 2020 Lake Ice Analysis (image available here) from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Lab (GLERL) (source, from here), shows little ice.  The MIRS Lake Ice Concentration (shown at bottom, available via an LDM feed from CIMSS), similarly shows little ice in the Lakes.

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color imagery over Lake Superior, 1 and 31 December 2020 (Click to enlarge)

Animations similar to Lake Superior’s can be accessed in this webpost as mp4s: (Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario) or as animated gifs (Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario).

MIRS estimates of Lake Ice, from ATMS on Suomi-NPP, 0800 UTC on 1 January 2021