Next-Generation S-NPP/JPSS NUCAPS Soundings highlight the environment around Severe Tropical Storm Choi-wan

Over the last few days Himawari-8 AHI Air Mass RGB imagery has captured an impressive view of Severe Tropical Storm Choi-wan near Japan.  The storm began as a tropical depression near Wake Island and the Japan Meteorological Agency upgraded the depression to a tropical storm on October 2nd.  The tropical storm continued to move north-northwest toward Japan and the Sea of Okhotsh but weakened as it evolved.  Yesterday and today (October 8th) the storm began to take on more extratropical characteristics and look like a strong mid-latitude low pressure system (click on Fig. 1 animation).

Himawari-8 AHI Air Mass RGB 0000 UTC 6 October 2015 to2020 UTC 8 October 2015

Figure 1. Himawari-8 AHI Air Mass RGB 0000 UTC 6 October 2015 to2020 UTC 8 October 2015

Currently, SPoRT is investigating the utility of NOAA Unique CrIS/ATMS Processing System (NUCAPS) satellite retrieved soundings for hurricane tropical to extratropical transition events. Soundings are typically used to anticipate severe weather and analyze the pre-convective environment; however, they can be just as valuable for analyzing and understanding the environment surrounding complex extratropical transition events, especially over data sparse oceanic regions. National Center forecasters at the National Hurricane Center and Ocean Prediction Center routinely use the Air Mass RGB for forecasting such events, especially for identifying the influence of warm, dry stratospheric air during extratropical transition.  Although the Air Mass RGB provides a wealth of information about the upper-level horizontal distribution of temperature and moisture characteristics surrounding a storm, it does not provide insight about the vertical distribution of thermodynamic characteristics. With Next-Generation S-NPP/JPSS NUCAPS Soundings now available in AWIPS-II, they can be used in conjunction with the Air Mass RGB to anticipate extratropical transition events.

Here are a few examples of NUCAPS Soundings compared to the Air Mass RGB. Let’s take a look at NUCAPS Soundings in three locations in the environment surrounding Severe Tropical Storm Choi-wan (Fig. 2).

Himawari-8 AHI Air Mass RGB 1520 UTC 7 October 2015 capturing an impressive

Figure 2. Himawari-8 AHI Air Mass RGB 15:20 UTC 7 October 2015 capturing impressive view of Severe Tropical Storm Choi-wan near Japan and NUCAPS Sounding point locations (green dots) 1500 UTC

Location 1, red/orange coloring, represents upper-level dry air on the Air Mass RGB.  To no surprise, the NUCAPS Sounding (Fig. 3) reveals dry upper-levels and dry conditions throughout the atmospheric column.

NUCAPS Sounding 1500 UTC 7 October 2015 taken near label 1 in the Air Mass RGB in a region representative of upper-level dry air (orange coloring)

Figure 2. NUCAPS Sounding 1500 UTC 7 October 2015 taken near Location 1 in the Air Mass RGB(Fig. 2) in a region representative of upper-level dry air (red/orange color)

Now Location 2 is also in an orange colored region and representative of upper-level dry air, but take note the coloring is not as “red tinted” as Location 1 and there are more mid-level clouds.  Mid-level clouds tend to be light tan or ocher colored in the Air Mass RGB.  The NUCAPS Sounding (Fig. 3) does confirm a mid-level moisture layer from about 800-600 mb. Seeing ocher clouds in the RGB only means that qualitatively mid-level clouds are present (one can’t get a quantitative height from the RGB), but inspection of the NUCAPS Sounding would give a quantitative height estimate of the mid-level clouds.  Although this sounding is in the region right over the mid-level cloud, looking at more soundings in the same orange region (but not right over a cloud) do show the atmospheric column is not completely dry (like Location 1) but there is low- to mid-level moisture present throughout the region surrounding Location 2.  Just by looking at the RGB one may not realize a mid- to low-level moisture layer is present since the interpretation of the orange coloring in the Air Mass RGB is upper-level dry air.

NUCAPS Sounding

Figure 3. NUCAPS Sounding 1500 UTC 7 October 2015 taken near Location 2 in the Air Mass RGB (Fig. 2) in a region representative of upper-level dry air (orange coloring) and mid-level clouds (light orange or ocher color)

Location 3 is the most interesting (at least to me since the sounding gives more information about the atmosphere than one could extrapolate from just looking at the Air Mass RGB).  The green coloring around Location 3 represents a warm, moist air mass.  The NUCAPS Sounding (Fig. 4) does reveal a more moist sounding about 300 mb and above, but note there is mid-level dry air present and a low level moist layer.  Again the NUCAPS Soundings provide more information about mid- and low- level characteristics that one can’t infer from the RGB imagery.  This is just one example that highlights the utility of analyzing Next-Generation satellite data sets for complex weather events in data sparse regions.

NUCAPS Sounding

Figure 4. NUCAPS Sounding 1500 UTC 7 October 2015 taken near Location 3 in the Air Mass RGB (Fig. 2) in a region representative of upper-level moist air (orange coloring) and mid-level clouds (green color)

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