It’s Dust (RGB) Season!

A large dust plume occurred over the southwest CONUS on 23 March 2017 as high winds lofted surface materials from the Mexican plateau across the border toward Texas and New Mexico.  Blowing dust events are common in the Spring in this region given the frequency of strong cyclones passing over dry land with sparse vegetation at this time.  For this event the dust plume could be detected during the day in visible imagery and even infrared single channel imagery from the newly launched GOES-16 satellite; however, the high resolution visible imagery traditionally used to monitor dust is not valid after sunset and through the overnight period.  The nighttime impacts of the dust plume eventually extended to locations downstream in Colorado, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Fortunately, a combination of infrared channels from GOES-16 can be used within an red, green, and blue (i.e. RGB) imagery product to highlight the dust location (bright magenta coloring) both day and night.


Dust RGB Imagery from GOES-16 at 0257 UTC (~9:57 PM Central) on 23 March 2017 centered on northwestern Texas of the U.S.  Dust plume is identified by magenta coloring while thick cloud features are mostly in tans to reds with other thin clouds in dark shades ranging from purples and blues to black.


For the above and subsequent images/animations: NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite has not been declared operational and its data are preliminary and undergoing testing. Users receiving these data through any dissemination means  (including, but not limited to, PDA and GRB) assume all risk related to their use of GOES-16 data and NOAA disclaims any and all warranties, whether express or implied, including (without limitation) any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.


Dust RGB Imagery from 0002 to 0357 UTC, 23 March 2017 centered over western Texas of the U.S.  Blowing dust is colored in magenta.

This “Dust RGB” was originally created by EUMETSAT nearly a decade ago during initial use of the MSG/SEVIRI instrument in order to more efficiently utilize the 3-fold increase of infrared channels available to forecasters. NASA/SPoRT transitioned this Dust RGB to U.S. forecasters via MODIS and VIIRS starting in 2011 in preparation for GOES-16, and this is the first look at geostationary Dust RGB imagery of a major blowing dust event over the southwest CONUS. This event continued into the night when visible imagery was no longer useful.  For this post note the Dust RGB and visible animations below and how the initial development of dust plumes in Mexico are more easily noticed in the Dust RGB around 1700 UTC in magenta while the plume is not readily evident in the visible imagery even at the end of the animation at 1842 UTC.  In addition, the visible imagery shows the thin clouds (orographically-induced) in northern Mexico as very similar in nature to the dust plumes themselves.  However, the Dust RGB shows the thin clouds in blue to black coloring and easily differentiates the dust from the clouds as well as land surface features.




Dust RGB and visible 0.64 micron imagery from 1617 to 1842 UTC on 23 March 2017 centered over western Texas near the U.S./Mexico border (click on animation to enlarge)

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