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Archive for the ‘RGB’ Category

It is said that a picture says a thousand words…well in this case let’s just say 434 words, as are contained in this post. Anyway, I’d like to point out six features in this morning’s Nighttime Microphysics RGB.  The image below (MODIS Nighttime Microphysics RGB) showed several features of varying degrees of operational relevance.

MODIS Nighttime Microphysics RGB with annotations valid 0755 UTC 16 July 2014

MODIS Nighttime Microphysics RGB with annotations valid 0755 UTC 16 July 2014

 

A myriad of cloud features can be observed, including fog in the valleys of central Appalachia, deep convective clouds along the Florida coast, patches of thin and thick cirrus over north-central Alabama, and low stratus clouds in Missouri…to name just a few.  Sure, this isn’t an exhaustive list of the potential cloud features to observe, but showcases the ability to contrast effectively between different cloud types.  Of perhaps significant interest is the ability to see the contrasting airmasses displayed across the Southeast region.  Notice the  pinkish colors north and west of the yellow curved line that stretches from central Louisiana to southern Virginia.  This represents a lower relative contribution of blue color, or lesser longwave radiation at the 10.8 µm wavelength, which is indicative of cooler temperatures.  To the south and east of this line, much more blue is apparent, which is thus indicative of warmer temperatures.   Surface observations valid at about the same time have been overlaid with the RGB image to provide temperature data context.  Air and dew point temperatures are around 10 degrees F cooler behind the line/front, but notice that the northerly wind shift is still on the south/east side of the line at such locations as Montgomery, AL and Columbus, GA.  At those locations, dew point temperatures were still 70 and 71 F, respectively, with air temperatures at 72 F.  So, the gradient in temperatures still lingered behind the surface front and is well depicted in the RGB imagery.  This type of information can be valuable to forecasters, as temperature, moisture, and wind characteristics are often complex in the vicinity of surface fronts.  Thus, while wind shifts may be observed initially, as in this case, the imagery shows the location of the temperature gradient much better.

The importance of this type of imagery is that it offers a much more effective assessment of meteorological phenomena than existing GOES imagery.  The only problem currently is the limitation of available imagery to forecasters, since these are from polar-orbiting platforms (Terra, Aqua, Suomi NPP), and thus provide just a few snapshots per night over a given location.  Nevertheless, the imagery form the VIIRS and MODIS instruments offer added value to existing GOES imagery and serve as valuable teaching and preparatory aids for future GOES-R and JPSS missions.

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I didn’t have a chance to make this post last week when the imagery were more time-relevant.  Nevertheless, I wanted to point out another example of the usefulness of MODIS and VIIRS imagery over current GOES imagery and show the usefulness of exciting products and imagery to come!  First, let’s take a look at the color-enhanced GOES-IR image below from the morning (0715 UTC) of June 20th.

Color-enhanced GOES-IR (11um) image valid 0715 UTC 20 June 2014

Image 1.  Color-enhanced GOES-IR (11 µm) image valid 0715 UTC 20 June 2014

 

I’ve placed the yellow circles in the image for a reason, which you’ll see below.  Further down, I’m going to show areas of fog displayed in the MODIS and VIIRS imagery, and granted, this is not the standard GOES channel difference (11-3.9 µm) typically used for making fog assessments.   However, this post is meant to show current (MODIS / VIIRS) and future capabilities (GOES-R / JPSS) that will make fog detection and cloud differentiation much more easy for the operational forecaster.  So, in the image above, fog is nearly unidentifiable as it was in the 11-3.9 µm channel difference image that morning (not shown).  Mainly high cirrus clouds can be observed scattered across the region.  Now, let’s take a look at the MODIS “fog” product, or channel difference (11-3.9 um) product valid at about the same time (Image 2).

Color-enhanced MODIS 11-3.9 u m product valid 0718 UTC 20 June 2014

Image 2.  Color-enhanced MODIS 11-3.9 µm image valid 0718 UTC 20 June 2014

Notice that in the same areas we can now begin to see low clouds (indicated by yellow colors) scattered around the valleys of the southern Appalachian region.  While the GOES-East imager is capable of detecting larger scale fog often in the valleys in the eastern circle, fog in the valleys in the western circle present challenges for the current GOES-East instrument, and is often not shown very well (even in the standard 11-3.9 µm channel difference).    Next, let’s take a look at a VIIRS Nighttime Microphysics RGB valid at about the same time.

VIIRS Nighttime Microphysics RGB valid 0723 UTC 20 June 2014

Image 3.  VIIRS Nighttime Microphysics RGB valid 0723 UTC 20 June 2014

In the RGB imagery it is much easier to detect the extent of the fog, making the operational forecast process much more effective.  Notice also that it is possible to see the fog through the higher clouds around the TN/GA/NC border region.  Not only does the resolution of the VIIRS and MODIS instruments allow for superior fog detection, but the RGBs in particular offer tremendous operational advantages.  As a user of RGBs for about 2 years now, I am convinced that this type of imagery has a relevant and needed place in future operational forecasting.  Of course, it will take time for forecasters to become accustomed and adjust to the new imagery, but it will happen.

 

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MODIS Air Mass RGB Imagery with limb correction applied to the water vapor and ozone channels.  1859 UTC, 13 May 2014

MODIS Air Mass RGB Imagery with limb correction applied to the water vapor and ozone channels. 1859 UTC, 13 May 2014

The Air Mass RGB imagery product via MODIS has often appeared to lack “green” coloring near the edge of the swath and there have been noticeable differences between the channels from Aqua and Terra used within the RGB.  Forecasters from the Great Falls, MT and Albuquerque, NM WFOs applying this experimental data noted these issues.  The above image is a limb and bias corrected version of the Air Mass RGB.  The water vapor and ozone channels tend to “cool” near the swath edge as they pass through more atmosphere and the differences in satellite instrument quality result in physical characteristics between the images having different coloring.  SPoRT has worked to develop a non-linear function to correct much of the limb cooling as well as a bias correction, both through comparison of the MODIS instruments to the EUMETSAT SEVIRI instrument.  Annotations to the image attempt to classify the various features indicated by the resulting composite color during a MODIS pass from 1859 UTC on 13 May 2014 when a cold air mass was moving into the upper Midwest.  Simple interpretation guides can be found via SPoRT’s Training page or EUMETSAT. For comparison, additional plots of GOES Water Vapor,  and NAM 500mb Temperature, Humidity, and Height 0-hour analysis and 6-hour forecasts are provided below for reference. There is also a single image of the Hybrid GEO/LEO Water Vapor / Air Mass RGB product that loops GOES Water Vapor imagery and inserts the MODIS Air Mass RGB swath as it is available because the RGB is largely made up of water vapor channels.  Both the Hybrid and single-swath MODIS files are available in netCDF format for use in AWIPS I or II as well as KML format.

This new limb/bias corrected Air Mass RGB product is credited in large part to graduate student work being done at the University of Alabama Huntsville in conjunction with NASA/SPoRT. Primary contributors are:
Nicolas Elmer (UAH graduate student)
Dr. Emily Berndt (NASA/SPoRT Post-Doctoral Scientist)
Dr. Gary Jedlovec (NASA/SPoRT PI)

Additional contributors include:
Frank LaFontaine (Raytheon, Data processing and analysis)
Kevin McGrath (Jacobs, Product code development and real-time processing)
Matthew Smith (UAH, Data processing and product code development)
Dr. Andrew Molthan (NASA/SPoRT, RGB code development and research science)

g13.2014133.1845_US_wv

GOES Water Vapor Imagery at 1845 UTC, for 13 May 2014

 

 

 

 

NAM 500mb, 0-hour forecast valid 1200 UTC, 12 May 2014 of Temperature, Humidity, and Height via

NAM 500mb, 0-hour forecast valid 1200 UTC, 13 May 2014 of Temperature, Humidity, and Height via NCAR RAL website

NAM 500mb, 0-hour forecast valid 1200 UTC, 13 May 2014 of Temperature, Humidity, and Height via NCAR RAL website

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NAM 500mb, 6-hour forecast valid 1800 UTC, 13 May 2014 of Temperature, Humidity, and Height via NCAR RAL website

NAM 500mb, 6-hour forecast valid 1800 UTC, 13 May 2014 of Temperature, Humidity, and Height via NCAR RAL website

CAR RAL website

Example: SPoRT Hybrid GEO/LEO Water Vapor and Air Mass RGBimagery

Example: SPoRT Hybrid GEO/LEO Water Vapor and Air Mass RGBimagery

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A strong cold frontal boundary that surged south across the high plains of Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas April 29, 2014 was forecast to produce widespread strong winds and blowing dust.   The presence of cloud cover is a key limitation of observing important surface features from satellite imagery.  The following series of imagery illustrates how the availability of the Dust RGB composite product can improve analysis of dust through clouds even when compared with other high resolution satellite imagery.  The 500-meter Visible valid at 2026 UTC over west Texas shows exceptional detail of the cloud field over the area however based on surface observations it is difficult to see verify any dust.  The 1-km True Color image valid at the same time also shows various cloud structures as well as the background appearance of the land surface.  Again, it is still difficult to discern any dust in the imagery.  Finally, the Dust RGB at 2026 UTC details precisely where the location of the main dust field exists beneath the cloud cover.  Source regions are even visible over southeastern Colorado.  A sharp boundary along the southern extent is also evident over the Permian Basin.  This area of dust surged west into eastern NM through the morning of the 30th and even produced visibility reductions in the Rio Grande Valley around Albuquerque.

MODIS-VIIRS 500-meter visible image valid at 2026 UTC April 29, 2014.

MODIS-VIIRS 500-meter visible image valid at 2026 UTC April 29, 2014.

MODIS-VIIRS 1-km True Color image valid 2026UTC April 29, 2014.

MODIS-VIIRS 1-km True Color image valid 2026UTC April 29, 2014.

MODIS-VIIRS 1-km Dust RGB image valid 2026UTC April 29, 2014.

MODIS-VIIRS 1-km Dust RGB image valid 2026UTC April 29, 2014.

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This was one of those storms that people will talk about for years, especially those that were directly affected by it.  It all started with three separate shortwaves that all phased together once off the Mid-Atlantic coast, far enough offshore to limit any direct effects save for some unusual late season snow and gusty winds the next day.  The highest impact area included Cape Cod, Nantucket, Nova Scotia, and New Foundland.  I’m sure any ships that were in the vicinity were not happy with this situation!

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass animation valid 03/24/14-03/26/14.

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass animation valid 03/24/14-03/26/14.

The evolution of the nor’easter can be seen in the GOES Sounder RGB Air Mass animation above.  A southern stream system originating in the Gulf of Mexico moved east of Florida while two other shortwaves dropped southeast out of Canada.  All of the pieces combined near the North Carolina coastline, but the explosive deepening took place as the combined system moved northeast away from the Mid-Atlantic.  There appears to be a few stratospheric intrusions, but the most impressive intrusion occurs with the final shortwave as noted by the dark oranges and reds that appear at the end of the day on 03/25.  When models are forecasting a phasing situation, this product can be quite useful in identifying the features and observing the stratospheric drying seemingly “bleed” from one shortwave to the other.

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 1540 UTC on 03/26/14.

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 1540 UTC on 03/26/14.

MODIS RGB Air Mass product with ASCAT winds overlaid valid at 1540 UTC on 03/26/14.

MODIS RGB Air Mass product with ASCAT winds overlaid valid at 1540 UTC on 03/26/14.

The two MODIS RGB Air Mass products above show the nor’easter near peak intensity.  Notice how distinct the gradient between oranges and greens is in this image, almost as though you can see the upper portion of the frontogenesis, well behind the actual front.  The intensity of the stratospheric intrusion is quite evident by the dark pinks near the center of the cyclone.  The second image shows the wind field overlaid from ASCATB.  Notice the large area of hurricane force winds (red wind barbs) near the bent-back front, in the comma-head of the cyclone.  This area of wind affected parts of Southeast Massachusetts, including Nantucket where winds gusted from 60-85 mph.  Nantucket recorded a wind gust of 82 mph and about 10″ of snow.  Meanwhile, Nova Scotia bore the brunt of this beast with wind gusts of 129 mph at the Bay of Fundy and 115 mph in Wreckhouse.  Waves were equally impressive with altimeter readings between 40-50 ft and a buoy report of 52.5 ft.

GOES-13 Infrared imagery with the GLD-360 30-minute lightning density product overlaid.

GOES-13 Infrared imagery with the GLD-360 30-minute lightning density product overlaid.

Another interesting aspect of this storm was the two distinct areas of thunderstorms that erupted.  I overlaid the OPC and TAFB offshore zones for reference.  Notice well east of the Bahamas there are possible supercell thunderstorms associated with the southern shortwave energy.  Meanwhile, as the strong northern stream shortwaves exit the NC coastline, two areas of thunderstorms developed with the easternmost storm exhibiting supercell characteristics.  Although the lightning was not as intense with this northern area, I would speculate that the storms were associated with very strong wind gusts due to the dry air associated with the stratospheric intrusion.

VIIRS Visible image valid at 1719 UTC on 03/26/14.

VIIRS Visible image valid at 1719 UTC on 03/26/14.

VIIRS Visible image with the 18 UTC OPC surface analysis overlaid.

VIIRS Visible image with the 18 UTC OPC surface analysis overlaid.

I’ll finish this entry with two VIIRS Visible images above showing the majestic beauty of this nor’easter.  The 18 UTC OPC surface analysis depicts the storm at a maximum intensity of 955 mb, after a 45 mb drop in 24 hours!  This qualifies as one of the most explosive cyclones on record.  Another tidbit. . .this was the strongest storm in this part of the Atlantic since Hurricane Sandy (2012).

Thanks for reading!

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VIIRS True Color RGB imagery produced by NASA/SPoRT.  Southwest region domain at 1836UTC, 11 March 2014.

VIIRS True Color RGB imagery produced by NASA/SPoRT. Southwest region domain at 1836UTC, 11 March 2014.

In the southwest CONUS region, severe to extreme drought conditions exist in many areas.  In particular southwest Colorado, northeast New Mexico and the Texas and Oklahoma panhandle areas are very dry according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.  A building high pressure area developed a strong pressure gradient across these areas during the afternoon of 11 March 2014, resulting in 20-30 kt sustained northerly winds with gusts over 40 kt. Combined with the dry conditions, WFOs in the southwest have been anticipating blow dust events to be large and more frequent with strong Spring cyclones. VIIRS True Color RGB imagery (above) shows the blowing dust in Colorado and Texas, but the clouds in Colorado and Kansas have a similar color and the dry ground characteristics in Texas also look similar in color to the dust.  To provide a more efficient analysis of the blowing dust, VIIRS and MODIS can be used to create an RGB imagery product that shows blowing dust in shades of magenta to differentiate it from clouds and ground features.  This is done using the EUMETSAT recipe for the “Dust RGB” per their “Best Practices” after years of experience with the MeteoSat Second Generation SEVIRI instrument.  This geostationary instrument has similar capabilities to that of the future GOES-R ABI instrument.  Hence VIIRS and MODIS provide operational utility now and demonstrate future capabilities that all U.S. forecasters can use to be ready for the next generation of satellite products.  The VIIRS and MODIS passes show three times from this afternoon to aid forecasters with tracking the dust event.

20140311_1836_sport_viirs_swregion_dust_annotated

MODIS Dust RGB Imagery for 1941UTC 11 March 2014

MODIS Dust RGB Imagery for 1941UTC 11 March 2014

VIIRS Dust RGB Imagery for 2019UTC 11 March 2014

VIIRS Dust RGB Imagery for 2019UTC 11 March 2014

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Well, it’s February and it’s the East Pacific off of California, so the short answer is no.  But. . .what an amazing structure, right?  We haven’t seen anything this good looking in the tropical Atlantic in years!  But I digress. . .

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 0621 UTC on 02/28/14.  The blue lines are the boundaries of OPC (north), TAFB (south), and Hawaii (west)

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 0621 UTC on 02/28/14. The blue lines are the boundaries of OPC (north), TAFB (south), and Hawaii (west)

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 1032 UTC on 02/28/14.

MODIS RGB Air Mass product valid at 1032 UTC on 02/28/14.

The first image was collected four hours before the second image and you can see how the center of the intense storm developed an “eye-like” feature (images courtesy of NASA SPoRT).  Notice the distribution of the pinks and reds in both images as well.  That is dry, stratospheric air filling the center of the strong upper-level low (~300-500 mb).  The second area shows an additional area of pink approaching the southern California coast.  This area is associated with strong instability that has led to rare California thunderstorms.

So, how do we know if there is stratospheric air?

AIRS Total Column Ozone product valid at 2200 UTC on 02/27/14.

AIRS Total Column Ozone product valid at 2200 UTC on 02/27/14.

AIRS Ozone Anomaly Product valid at 2200 UTC on 02/27/14.

AIRS Ozone Anomaly Product valid at 2200 UTC on 02/27/14.

The first image above is the AIRS Total Column Ozone product developed at NASA SPoRT.  The color bar on the left is not correct.  The main idea is that the warmer (cooler) the colors, the more (less) ozone is in the atmospheric column.  The green colors indicate ozone levels above 200 Dobson Units (ozone unit of measurement) with the magenta areas indicating ~500 Dobson Units.  The second image shows the AIRS Ozone Anomaly product with the first level of blue indicating 125% of normal, while the yellow region indicates >200% of normal ozone at that latitude and geographic location.  Stratospheric air is associated with high levels of ozone and potential vorticity which can help identify the strength of the upper-level low.  These images show the connection of this ozone pocket with the “reservoir” of ozone located in the northern latitudes at this time of year.

AIRS Total Column Ozone Product valid at 1000 UTC on 02/28/14.

AIRS Total Column Ozone Product valid at 1000 UTC on 02/28/14.

AIRS Ozone Anomaly valid at 1000 UTC on 02/28/14.

AIRS Ozone Anomaly valid at 1000 UTC on 02/28/14.

As the upper-low cut off and became stacked over the surface low (~971 mb), you can see how the high concentration of ozone becomes more focused over the storm.  Once again, the magenta coloring indicates ozone levels >500 Dobson Units.  The anomalies are more incredible with a large area of >200% of normal directly west of southern California.

I will continue to work with forecasters at OPC, TAFB, SAB, and WPC on discovering ways to use these products in conjunction with the RGB Air Mass products to gauge storm strength and look for signals upstream of developing tropopause folds and stratospheric intrusions.

GOES-15 Visible imagery with the GLD-360 30-minute lightning density product overlaid.

GOES-15 Visible imagery with the GLD-360 30-minute lightning density product overlaid.

The ozone isn’t the only impressive part of this storm.  Notice the occasional bursts of lightning within the spiral bands of the parent storm.  Although not completely unusual, this is a great indicator of how much energy is available to this storm.

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with GLD-360 lightning strikes overlaid.

GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with GLD-360 lightning strikes overlaid.

I put together a longer animation of the GOES-Sounder RGB Air Mass product with the GLD-360 lightning strikes overlaid.  Note the first system that came ashore in California earlier this week, then moved over the four-corners regions with plenty of lightning, especially for this time of year.  The current storm is seen lurking offshore with more lightning developing in a band of thunderstorms that moved from Los Angeles to just north of San Diego.  This system will be responsible for the next bought of winter weather for the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic next week.

Thanks for reading and as always, feel free to contact me with questions and feedback!

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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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During a brief period in mid-Janaury, when the “Polar Vortex” was safely docked in its home port of Alaska, temperatures over Alaska’s Interior plunged into the 40s and 50s below zero.  Under clear skies and light winds, surface-based radiation inversions decouple a thin bottom layer of air from the free troposphere and produce extreme stratification of temperatures in the vertical over Interior Alaska’s complex terrain.  Long-wave Infrared imagery from polar-orbiting satellites allows forecasters to “see” the topography during these events, since the coldest air settles into the valley bottoms and ground temperatures monotonically moderate with increasing height.

The 2013-2014 winter is the inaugural season for SPoRT’s RGB Night-time Microphysics product.  Given that longwave IR contributes the “B” channel of the RGB NT Micro, one might wonder if topographic features might also be evident in the RGB NT Micro during a cold clear Alaska night.

This figure is a four-panel screen capture from an AWIPS workstation at National Weather Service WFO Fairbanks, Alaska.  All four panels show imagery from the 1321Z (5:21am Alaska Standard Time) pass of the SNPP VIIRS instrument on Monday, January 13th, 2014.  The area shown is zoomed into the “Upper Yukon Valley” of Alaska’s Interior.  The village of Fort Yukon, on the Yukon River, is marked with the star in each panel.  Conditions at this time in the Upper Yukon Valley were clear, calm, and cold, with surface temperatures around Fort Yukon in the 40s below zero.

Upper Yukon 4 Panel annotated

The upper-left panel is the RGB NT Micro using the default color enhancement, the upper-right panel is the Day-Night Band, the lower-right panel is the 11 micron longwave IR, and the lower-left panel is the traditional channel differencing “fog product.”  Topographic features are clearly evident in the DNB image in the upper-right, as well as in the longwave IR image in the lower-right.  But interestingly, the topography is almost entirely non-evident in the RGB NT Micro in the upper-left, despite longwave IR being one of the three components of the RGB image.

Learning to use a new product includes discovering what that product is capable of depicting and *not* depicting under a variety of weather conditions.  The Alaskan winter is an extreme and unusual environment, and this one example indicates that one should not expect to see terrain features in the RGB NT Micro under conditions of clear skies and extreme temperature stratification.  Correspondingly, a “smooth” look to RGB NT Micro imagery in this case does *not* indicate a broad cloud deck covering the terrain.

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SPoRT is conducting an assessment of RGB imagery for Aviation and Cloud Analysis with Alaska WFO partners.  A 17 minute training module for high-latitude application of nighttime RGBs with an Alaska example was created by SPoRT to support this assessment (see SPoRT training page to download or launch module). The Juneau WFO provided feedback for 1/24/14.  Here is a part of their feedback regarding the value of the Nighttime Microphysics RGB imagery from MODIS and VIIRS and an example image from AWIPS/D2d.

WFO Juneau feedback:
“… the microphysics image was very helpful in picking out where the fog and low clouds were in the complex terrain that is the SE panhandle. most of the fog this morning was confined to the narrower valleys and channels while the wider channels were mostly clear. This is possibly due to higher winds still present in the wider channels limiting fog formation there. It also showed little or no fog and low clouds out in the gulf. The microphysics image was very helpful with figuring out fog for zone and marine forecasts. It also helped out with the TAFs with seeing if there were any higher clouds layers above the fog layer.”

AJK_Ntmicro_assess_feedback_for_blog_20140124_0736_annotated

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