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Archive for the ‘AWIPS II’ Category

Last year, NASA SPoRT submitted a proposal to collaborate with the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.  The effort is focused on evaluating the Meteogram Moving Trace Tool developed by the Meteorological Development Laboratory (MDL) with support from NASA SPoRT to include total lightning.  One of the top requests from forecasters has been to create a time series plot of total lightning in real-time.  SPoRT first began to develop the total lightning tracking tool for use in AWIPS II to use with total lightning observations from the ground-based lightning mapping arrays.  The effort has now expanded to SPoRT coordinating with MDL’s meteogram tool for AWIPS II.  The advantage of the MDL tool is that it can create time series trends for multiple data sets beyond total lightning (e.g., radar, satellite, models).

This week, the Operations Proving Ground has brought together forecasters, developers, and trainers from multiple organizations to evaluate the use of this tool in several scenarios.  The opportunity for face-to-face discussions, training, and evaluation has been invaluable for the MDL and SPoRT developers to assess how the tool may be used in operations and to fix bugs that are found.  The face-to-face nature has allowed for bugs or requests for new features to be addressed throughout the day and to test the fixes the following day.  The week long evaluation facilitated by the Operations Proving Ground will lead to several improvements to the meteogram trace tool in preparation for its deployment in AWIPS II later this year.

Forecasters evaluating the meteogram trace tool at the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.

Forecasters evaluating the meteogram trace tool at the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.

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The Huntsville County Warning Area received widespread 3-5 inch snowfalls Wednesday night, with a few sites reporting as high as 10 inches!  While it’s melting quickly today with temperatures in the mid and upper 30s, the snow cover did hang around long enough to be captured by the mid-morning MODIS pass (though we are on the very edge of the pass, so the bowtie distortions are noticeable).  That might be nothing new, but this is the first time we’ve been able to view such imagery in AWIPS II.

MODIS Snow/Cloud RGB Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014

MODIS Snow/Cloud RGB Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014

MODIS True Color Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014, viewed in AWIPS II CAVE

MODIS True Color Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014, viewed in AWIPS II CAVE

The Snow-Cloud RGB is particularly illuminating, as it effectively illustrates the downslope-induced cloud breaks over northern Georgia.

Great job to the SPoRT AWIPS II team on helping us get these data back into AWIPS!  There are still some kinks to work out, but this essentially restores the SPoRT data feed that was in place before our A2 upgrade in June 2012.

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In the early morning hours of Wednesday, January 29th a deck of low stratus clouds developed over the Copper River Basin in Alaska.  The RGB Night-Time Microphysics product derived from SNPP VIIRS instrument at 1321UTC (4:21am local Alaska time) is shown in the following screen capture from the National Weather Service’s AWIPS workstation at WFO Fairbanks, Alaska.   This view is zoomed into the southern portion of mainland Alaska; the Copper River Basin is northeast of Anchorage and includes the community of Gulkana.  The 1253UTC METAR observation from Gulkana indicated an overcast ceiling of 500ft above ground, with seven miles of horizontal visibility.  The RGB NT Micro depicts the stratus deck with a gray-yellow color, and one can see the low clouds confined by the higher terrain and covering the broad Cooper River Basin as well as following the more narrow Copper River itself as it flows southeast of Gulkana and eventually into the Gulf of Alaska.

Copper Basin annotated

A comparison of the RGB NT Micro product with different VIIRS products from the same SNPP pass is presented in the following 4-panel screen capture.  The RGB NT Micro is in the upper-left, the Day-Night Band is in the upper-right, the 11.45 micron IR is in the lower-right, and the traditional channel differencing fog product is in the lower-left.  The deck of stratus clouds over the Copper River Basin is also evident in the longwave IR imagery and the fog product.  The clouds are thin enough that the city lights of are evident through the cloud layer in the Day-Night Band.  In this example, it appears that the stratus deck is most evident in the RGB NT Micro and the fog product, and least evident in the Day-Night Band.

Copper Basin 4-Panel

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The latest version of the Advanced Research WRF (WRF EMS v3.4.1) is up and running at NWS Huntsville.  While we still have some adjustments to make, which primarily involve getting ALL of the desired forecast parameters into AWIPS II…the data are mostly available (example shown in image 1).  One of the primary advantages of outputting data to AWIPS II is the ability to overlay multiple fiorecast parameters (image 1), and to include other data sets such as regional METARs.  This can provide forecasters with the ability to make quick qualitative and quantative analysis of the model’s performance with real-time data sets.

Image 1.  HUN local WRF EMS nested 3km domain displayed in AWIPS II.  Shown are surface dewpoints (F, image), surface wind streamlines (knots, white lines), mean sea-level pressure (mb, yellow lines), and METAR plots valid 1500 UTC 14 Aug 2013.  This is the 3 hour forecast data from the 1200 UTC "SPoRT" model run.

Image 1. WFO HUN local WRF EMS nested 3km domain displayed in AWIPS II. Shown are surface dewpoints (F, color image), surface wind streamlines (knots, white lines), mean sea-level pressure (mb, yellow lines), and METAR plots valid at 1500 UTC 14 Aug 2013. Note that these are 3 hour forecast data from the 1200 UTC “SPoRT” model run.

Our office IT has created a new data viewer as well, which has some great features: capable of displaying data/imagery from archived model runs, can automatically generate animated .gifs, allows switching between the SPoRT and control models for quick, qualitative analysis between the two model runs.

Image 2.  New HUN WRF EMS Viewer. Data shown are 3km inner domain 3-hour forecast 2 m temperatures valid 1500 UTC 14 August 2013.

Image 2. New HUN WRF EMS Viewer. Data shown are 2m temperatures valid 1500 UTC 14 August 2013, from the 3km nested 1200 UTC SPoRT model run.

The HUN office is involved in a collaborative effort with SPoRT, configuring our local model to use MODIS-derived data (GVF, SSTs,) and the SPoRT Land Information System (land surface model) in our operational run.  A control model is also being run on the same system, using standard NAM and other climatological data sets in place of the SPoRT related data sets.  SPoRT is providing an updated version of the Meteorological Evaluation Tools (MET) which will make objective, quantitative analysis and verification of the model runs possible.  It is expected that the more representative, higher resolution SPoRT related data sets will translate to better overall accuracy of forecast parameters in the SPoRT model run vs those of the control run when compared with real-world in-situ observations.  We will be running the MET for specific events and perhaps to determine and compare longer term biases between the two model runs over the remaining summer and the upcoming fall/winter.

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There can be little doubt that the AWIPS II operational testing and evaluation process has been rocky.  But there are times when it really shows some great potential.  Case in point–the GOES-R convective initiation product, which WFO Huntsville is beginning to get into AWIPS II on a provisional basis.

Visible Satellite and GOES-R CI Image, valid 2300 UTC 18 July 2013

Visible Satellite and GOES-R CI Image, valid 2300 UTC 18 July 2013

WFO Huntsville has tested the CI product from UAHuntsville off and on for several years, but it has not been available for the last year or so while working through challenges related to AWIPS II.  This week we decided to give it a try.  The installation process was nearly as easy as it was for the total lightning plug-in, except no outside software is required–the CI data arrive in Grib-2 format, which means only some minor configuration adjustments are required.  Another advantage is that AWIPS II allows overlaying of multiple images, instead of toggling between just two, so a derived product like CI can be inserted with any combination of data.

We couldn’t have picked a better day to try it out.  After a shortwave trough passed through this morning, slightly drier and more stable conditions were suppressing most convection, but not all of it.  Several storms developed in northeast Alabama and southern middle Tennessee, triggering higher CI probabilities (as noted in the above image).  Despite the waning sunlight, one of the last cells of the day had the highest probability from the CI product–92–as seen in the radar combination image below.

KHTX Radar reflectivity and GOES-R CI image, valid (approximately) 0015 UTC 19 July 2013

KHTX Radar reflectivity and GOES-R CI image, valid (approximately) 0015 UTC 19 July 2013

True to form, this cell in Franklin County, Tennessee ended up producing quite a bit of heavy rain and some lightning near the Winchester area by approximately 0045 UTC.

KHTX Radar reflectivity and GOES-R CI image, valid approximately 0045 UTC 19 July 2013

KHTX Radar reflectivity and GOES-R CI image, valid approximately 0045 UTC 19 July 2013

It’s probably early to say that the GOES-R CI product is “fully operational” within AWIPS II at WFO Huntsville, but we are on our way.  I’m looking forward to using the newest version of the product as we head into the depths of the summer convective season.

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This particular blog post focuses on total lightning observations from the Moore, Oklahoma tornado.  SPoRT is participating in the annual NOAA Hazardous Weather Testbed Spring Experiment in Norman, Oklahoma.  The Spring Experiment is demonstrating new NOAA and NASA experimental capabilities as part of the annual Experimental Warning Program.  One NASA capability being demonstrated is total lightning associated with severe / tornado weather events.  The data used were NOT from NASA, but from the Oklahoma Lightning Mapping Array operated by the University of Oklahoma.  NASA SPoRT has access to these data through a collaboration to support the Hazardous Weather Testbed and demonstrates SPoRT’s software plug-in to display these data in the National Weather Service’s AWIPS II system.  Also, this collaboration is demonstrating the SPoRT / MDL total lightning tracking tool.  This particular post discusses the connection of total lightning and tornado occurrence consistent with the “lightning jump” concept developed by Christopher Schultz (NASA Coop) and the lightning team here at the Earth Science Office.  These experimental data were not available to the Norman, Oklahoma forecast office and this post is intended as a discussion of how these data may have been used.

Figure 1 takes place at 1910 UTC and shows a 4-panel display from AWIPS II.  The lower two panels show radar observations of storm relative velocity (left) and reflectivity (right).  The top panels show two total lightning products.  The first is the source density product (left), which is used by several SPoRT partners in operations.  The pseudo-geostationary lightning mapper (PGLM – right) is the demonstration product SPoRT is providing to the Hazardous Weather Testbed this year to demonstrate what the future Geostationary Lightning Mapper observations may look like.  The PGLM data are derived from the ground-based lightning mapping array data.  In this case it is from the Oklahoma network provided to SPoRT with this collaboration.  Lastly, please note the two pop-up windows.  These display the output from the SPoRT / MDL total lightning tracking tool, which is a time series of the source densities (left) and PGLM (right) observations, respectively.  Newcastle and Moore, Oklahoma are circled for reference.

Figure 1: AWIPS II four panel display from 1910 UTC that shows the total lightning source density (upper left), and pseudo geostationary lightning mapper flash extent density (PGLM - upper right), along with the radar storm relative velocity (lower left), and radar reflectivity (lower right).  The pop-up windows show the total lightning tracking tool's time series plot for the source densities (left) and PGLM flash extent density (right), respectively.

Figure 1: AWIPS II four panel display from 1910 UTC that shows the total lightning source density (upper left), and pseudo geostationary lightning mapper flash extent density (PGLM – upper right), along with the radar storm relative velocity (lower left), and radar reflectivity (lower right). The pop-up windows show the total lightning tracking tool’s time series plot for the source densities (left) and PGLM flash extent density (right), respectively.

Both the source density and PGLM demonstrate a lightning jump around 1910 UTC, as shown by the spike in observations in the time series (~800 sources and 46 flashes, respectively).  Christopher Schultz’s official lighting jump algorithm supports this visual inspection as it too indicated a lightning jump.  Interestingly, the first severe thunderstorm warning was issued at 1912 UTC and based on radar observations at 1908 UTC.  Normally, we train that lightning jumps will precede severe weather, so why is the jump coincident with the initial severe thunderstorm warning?  The answer is that the environment in central Oklahoma was extremely favorable for tornadic supercells.  As such, as storms showed any signs of growth a warning was issued.  This is similar to how the Huntsville forecast office operated during the April 27, 2011 outbreak as there were so many violent storms across the region.  Given the environment, the total lightning would play a reinforcing role as the lightning jump at 1910 UTC indicates that this storm is rapidly strengthening and becomes rooted in the boundary layer.  One feature that the total lightning observations provide is a very rapid update cycle.  The total lightning data update every minute, versus the radar updating every 4-6 minutes.  This means that the total lightning observations are providing continuous updates into how the storm is evolving, allowing the forecaster to evaluate the storm’s growth in between radar volume scans.

We will next step forward to 1928 UTC, shown in Figure 2.

This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1928 UTC.

Figure 2: This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1928 UTC.

The total lightning observations begin to undergo a second, reinforcing lightning jump at 1928 UTC.  The time series plot is less obvious than from 1910 UTC, particularly with the source densities, but the lightning jump algorithm did flag a reinforcing jump at this time.  At this point, this is 12 minutes before the official tornado warning at 1940 UTC and 28 minutes prior to the reported touchdown time of 1956 UTC, near Newcastle, Oklahoma.  This reinforcing jump emphasizes to the forecaster that something is occurring and that the storm continues to intensify.  Given that a severe thunderstorm warning is already active, this reinforcing jump alerts the forecaster that this storm is unlikely to weaken soon.  The radar reflectivity emphasizes this as well, as it begins to take on a supercell structure and a faint hook echo may be forming (circled in reflectivity frame).

Figure 3 comes at 1940 UTC, shown in Figure 3, when the tornado warning was issued.

This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1940 UTC.

Figure 3: This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1940 UTC.

At this stage, the lightning activity has decreased somewhat after the initial jump at 1910 UTC and the reinforcing jump at 1928 UTC.  Radar continues to show intensification, particularly with the radar velocity couplet clearly evident to the west-southwest of Newcastle, Oklahoma.

We will next step ahead to 1950 UTC, just prior to the touchdown of the tornado at 1956 UTC in Figure 4.

Figure 4: This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1950 UTC.

Figure 4: This is the same as Figure 1, but at 1950 UTC.

At this stage, the tornado warning has been active for 10 minutes and the radar observations show the classic hook echo and velocity couplet signatures.  Both total lightning products show one final increase in activity, but given the high values for the past few minutes, this is not a third lightning jump.  The tornado would touchdown 6 minutes later just outside of Newcastle, Oklahoma before further intensifying and moving through Moore, Oklahoma.

Christopher Schultz provided an additional radar analysis that is a cross section of the radar azimuthal shear (a measure of the storm’s rotation) in time in Figure 5.  Red vertical bars show the occurrence of the original and reinforcing lightning jump at 1910 and 1928 UTC, respectively.  Of note is the large increase in azimuthal shear after each lightning jump prior to the tornado’s touchdown.

Figure 5: A radar azimuthal shear cross section plot from 1900-2300 UTC.  The red bars indicate the times of lightning jumps from the lightning jump algorithm.

Figure 5: A radar azimuthal shear cross section plot from 1900-2300 UTC. The red bars indicate the times of lightning jumps from the lightning jump algorithm.

Once again, I would like to re-iterate that these experimental data were not available to the forecasters in real-time and that this is a post-event analysis.  Overall, the total lightning data behaved as expected, with two lightning jumps preceding the severe weather and the tornado that would later impact Moore, Oklahoma.  Based on the extremely favorable environment for tornadic supercells, the total lightning data would play a supporting role providing insight into the storm’s development for a forecaster, particularly with its one minute update times.  Total lightning typically has more utility in marginal events, but the post-analysis here shows that the underlying concepts of what drives a lightning jump are just as valid here.

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WFO Huntsville is supporting the Panoply Arts Festival in downtown Huntsville this weekend.  This event, which often features over 100,000 attendees, has a history of being disrupted due to bad weather.  WFO Huntsville staff are working both on-site and at the WFO to make sure that everyone remains safe.

WFO staff are using the new LMA plug-in provided by SPoRT to determine whether a lightning threat exists for the festival.  A cell developed in Lawrence County, AL, Saturday afternoon, and using the LMA data, we were able to determine that it contained intracloud lightning.  (The concentric circles indicate the 5 and 10-mile radii from the festival site.)

KHTX radar and North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array source density data, with range rings from downtown Huntsville

KHTX radar and North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array source density data, with range rings from downtown Huntsville

Fortunately, subsequent LMA and radar scans indicated a weakening trend, and it ended up posing no threat to the festival and its attendees.

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