High Wind Event Sends New Mexico “White Sand” into Texas

A fast-moving upper level trough and associated potent jet stream crossed New Mexico on February 28, resulting in a widespread high wind event. The graphic below shows mid-day wind speeds at 700mb, or about mountaintop level.

700mb wind across New Mexico

700mb Windspeeds on 28 February 2012

Some of the strongest wind observations actually occurred during the morning hours, but as shown in the surface observations plot at 20Z, this event was widespread and by afternoon many locations across central and eastern New Mexico reported gusts greater than 40 kts (colored red), with some locations also reporting visibility restrictions in “haze” or blowing dust (yellow).  At this time, KSRR reported 3/4 mile visibility while KALM reported 1/2 mile visibility.

surface plot for NM

Surface Observations from 22Z on 28 February 2012

A year-round source of dust in New Mexico is White Sands National Monument.  This light-colored gypsum sand generally shows up well on satellite imagery.  On the afternoon of 28 February 2012, the wind-driven plume reached west Texas, as shown in the images below – MODIS color composite and RGB cloud-snow imagery.  Other locations to the south and west of White Sands are also reporting blowing dust or haze with visibility restrictions (KLRU, KELP and KHOB).  These other areas of blowing dust are evident (though less obvious) on the MODIS color composite, but less so on the RGB cloud snow product.  Would the RGB Dust product have depicted all areas of blowing dust?

color composite of NM

MODIS Color Composite and White Sands Dust Plume 28 February 2012

RGB cloud snow imagery of NM

MODIS Cloud Snow RGB Imagery from 28 February 2012

4 thoughts on “High Wind Event Sends New Mexico “White Sand” into Texas

  1. Hi Deirdre,

    Yes, the MODIS product would have helped to detect some dust in that imagery. I’ll post a follow-on shortly.


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  3. I had also posted some imagery of this event on our CIMSS Satellite Blog:


    With the 24-bit graphics capability of AWIPS-2, making such distinctions between “normal” blowing dust plumes and the White Sands gypsum plume should be quite a bit easier, as can be seen in the 24-bit true color examples on our blog post. Unfortunately, it’s tough to make the products look as good with the 8-bit graphics limitation of AWIPS-1.

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