The Northeast is bearing down for a blizzard as two storm systems are expected to merge off the East Coast early Saturday morning. Currently, one low pressure center is near Lake Erie and the other one is off the Virginia coast (see surface map below). Once the two systems phase off the East Coast, the new system is expected to rapidly deepen to 970 mb. Blizzard conditions will result as 1-2 feet of snow falls and winds gust to as high as 70 mph.
From a satellite perspective, how can some of the new GOES-R imagery and AIRS profiles help identify significant features associated with this unique synoptic set up? Below is an RGB Air Mass image from 0634 UTC this morning. The image gives a clear view of the coastal storm. Notice the green colors to the south of the main cloud shield, indicated by a blue arrow. The green colors represent warm, moist tropical air that is being drawn into the storm. This air mass will provide abundant moisture to produce the robust snow fall amounts expected. A VIIRS/CRiS RGB Air Mass image from 0733 UTC this morning gives a broader view of the Eastern United States and shows the structure of both storms. The storm situated over the Great Lakes will usher cold air into the Northeast. There are also green colors to the north and northwest of the Great Lakes storm however they indicate cold, moist air.
Stratospheric intrusions are commonly associated with rapidly developing cyclones and may be responsible for transporting higher momentum air to the surface to produce damaging winds at the surface. If we piece together information from the RGB Air Mass imagery, AIRS total column ozone, and a 300 mb map, can we find an explanation to why this system will be associated with strong wind gusts? The 1200 UTC 300 mb observations, pictured below, show a 125 kt jet streak north of Maine. The red/orange colors in the MODIS RGB Air Mass imagery indicate the presence of a jet streak and high potential vorticity air. The AIRS total column ozone, pictured below, indicates higher values of ozone in the same vicinity. The presence of high potential vorticity air and larger amounts of ozone signify higher momentum stratospheric air intruding into the troposphere. Some of this stratospheric air is being drawn into the Great Lakes storm, shown by the yellow arrows on the VIIRS/CRiS RGB Air Mass image. Unfortunately there was not an AIRS pass to the east of the storm system to further confirm ozone-rich stratospheric air. As the system continues to progress, more AIRS data and RGB Air Mass data will be investigated to watch how stratospheric air is drawn into the storm and how it relates to the production of surface wind gusts.