Viewing Fall lightning with RealEarth

October 21st, 2021 |

Cooler temperatures across the Midwest don’t come without some severe weather. Yesterday evening and last night, a system brought rain and lightning to parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan, moving over Ohio by Thursday morning. RealEarth, a web-based visualization platform developed at UW-Madison, can display data from GOES-16 to monitor such events. RealEarth’s data archives usually go back at least 24-hours which provides temporal context to weather events.

RealEarth is a free data discovery and visualization platform developed at SSEC/CIMSS at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is available at

A 24-hour animation every hour from RealEarth (time in UTC) showing GOES-16 ABI Band 13 with the purple areas representing lightning. More specifically, the purple areas depict Flash Extent Density from the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) also aboard GOES-16.

Ongoing eruption of Cumbre Vieja (La Palma) in the Canary Islands

October 9th, 2021 |

GOES-16 True Color RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) True Color RGB images created using Geo2Grid (above) showed the south-southeastward drift of an ash-laden volcanic cloud from Cumbre Vieja on La Palma in the Canary Islands on 09 October 2021. Since this most recent ongoing eruptive period began on 19 September, intermittent periods of volcanic clouds with an elevated ash content have been observed — and on this day, the darker tan to light brown appearance was an indication that higher ash concentrations were likely.     

In the corresponding GOES-16 Ash RGB  images (below), increasing shades of pink — which suggest a higher ash content — became apparent within a semi-circular volcanic cloud element after 1100 UTC.  

GOES-16 Ash RGB images [click to play animation | MP4]

A NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color image as viewed using RealEarth (below) also showed the darker tan to light brown shades of the ash-laden volcanic cloud.

NOAA-20 VIIRS True Color RGB image [click to enlarge]

GOES-16 retrieved products from the NOAA/CIMSS Volcanic Cloud Monitoring site (below) indicated that the more distinct pulse of ash-laden volcanic cloud had a maximum height in the 5-6 km range, and was composed of ash particles having an effective radius 10 µm and smaller. 

GOES-16 Ash Probability [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Ash Loading [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Ash Height [click to play animation | MP4]

GOES-16 Ash Effective Radius [click to play animation | MP4]

Cyclone Shaheen-Gulab makes landfall in Oman

October 3rd, 2021 |

US Space Force EWS-G1 Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images [click to play animation | MP4]

US Space Force EWS-G1 (formerly GOES-13) Infrared Window (10.7 µm) images (above) showed
Hurricane Shaheen-Gulab weakening to a Tropical Storm shortly after it made a rare landfall along the coast of Oman on 03 October 2021. The storm exhibited an eye at times as it was a Category 1 Hurricane over the Gulf of Oman. This was likely the first tropical cyclone to make landfall along that coastal portion of Oman since 1890 (Wikipedia).

Meteosat-8 Infrared images, with contours of deep-layer wind shear from the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones site (below) indicated that the storm was moving through an environment of low shear.

Meteosat-8 Infrared images, with contours of deep-layer wind shear [click to enlarge]

Suomi-NPP VIIRS True Color RGB and infrared Window (11.45 µm) images viewed using RealEarth (below) showed the Category 1 Hurricane at 0927 UTC.

Suomi-NPP VIIRS True Color RGB and infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 0927 UTC [click to enlarge]

Pyrocumulonimbus cloud over northern Paraguay

September 29th, 2021 |

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and Infrared Window (10.35 µm, bottom) images [click to play animation | MP4]

Fires burning in far northern Paraguay on 29 September 2021 created a pyrocumulonimbus or pyroCb cloud — GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.35 µm) images (above) showed the pyroCB cloud, fire thermal anomalies or “hot spots” (clusters of red pixels) and cold cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures, respectively. The minimum 10.35 µm temperature was -47.6ºC at 1840 UTC. Note the relatively warm (darker gray) appearance of the pyroCb cloud in the 3.9 µm images — this is a characteristic signature of pyroCb cloud tops, driven by the smoke-induced shift toward smaller ice particles (which act as more efficient reflectors of incoming solar radiation).

A Suomi-NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) image at 1751 UTC as viewed using RealEarth (below) revealed cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures in the -60s C (shades of red). Surface temperatures at nearby sites had reached 38ºC (100ºF) by 18 UTC. 

Suomi-NPP VIIRS Infrared Window (11.45 µm) image at 1751 UTC [click to enlarge]

South American pyrocumulonimbus clouds are fairly uncommon — since the first documented case in 2018, only 7 other pyroCbs have been identified over that continent. 

Thanks to Mike Fromm, NRL, for alerting us to this latest pyroCb case. Additional information is available from