New NUCAPS Training & Resources

SPoRT has been part of a multi-organizational collaboration within the JPSS Sounding Initiative to develop products from Hyperspectral Infrared Sounders and assess the utility of the new observations in the operational environment.  Many of the products and capabilities start out as a “proof of concept” and are then introduced to end users to incorporate end user feedback into the design and implementation process, one example of this is Gridded NUCAPS.   The team has focused on satellite soundings processed through the NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS) which is the NOAA operational satellite sounding retrieval algorithm for hyperspectral infrared sounders on S-NPP and NOAA-20.  Currently NOAA-20 NUCAPS Soundings and Gridded Products are available to all National Weather Forecast Offices.   A recent article “Adapting Satellite Soundings for Operational Forecasting within the Hazardous Weather Testbed” highlights the applied research, assessment of satellite soundings in a quasi-operational setting, and the role of end-user feedback in adapting products/capabilities to meet end users’ needs.  The team comprised of algorithm developers, product developers, and end users has found ways to interact, translate science to operations/operations back to science, leveraging the cross-benefit of science and applications to guide applied research to improve satellite sounding algorithms and products.

The success of NUCAPS for the Cold Air Aloft aviation hazard and diagnosing the pre-convective environment along with the accessibility of NUCAPS products to end users has led to applied research to assess the utility of products for additional applications (Berndt et al. 2020).  NASA’s 2017 Decadal Survey points out “The final missing piece of applications research in the agencies is the very initial phase of creating applications—supporting studies that have an idea about how an application might work, and then attempting to create a community for it, and demonstrate its utility”.  There are complex barriers that exist when identifying end users and transitioning relevant data to meet their needs.  As pointed out by NASA’s 2017 Decadal Survey  “… the applications field is becoming associated with a science of its own…”  Recently, SPoRT has investigated the utility of NUCAPS products for fire weather applications as a “proof of concept”.  As SPoRT engages with users on application of NUCAPS observations, a new interactive training  was developed to communicate the value and utility of these data.  SPoRT has found that creating short, focused, applications-based training can remove some barriers to end users integrating new data and capabilities in operations.   Last SPoRT has created a NUCAPS webpage where scientist and users can find information relevant to NUCAPS products, resources such as training, blogs, peer-reviewed literature, and data access.


New Interactive training on application of NUCAPS products to assess fire weather conditions –> Go to training


NUCAPS resource webpage for scientists and end users –> Go to webpage



A Decade Review of SPoRT

A Decade Review of SPoRT

Written by Emily Berndt and Jordan Bell

SPoRT was established in 2002 to transition NASA satellite data and capabilities to improve short-term weather forecasting with an emphasis on National Weather Service (NWS) end users. With the goal of maximizing the benefit of NASA research and capabilities to benefit society, SPoRT has developed innovative solutions to bring research products to operations and tailor them to meet end user needs. Over the past decade SPoRT has been at the forefront of a range of activities, making notable contributions to NASA LIS and WRF Hydro, the GOES-R/JPSS Proving Grounds, and the GPM, SMAP, and SWOT Early Adopter Programs. With an initial focus on partners in the southeastern U.S., SPoRT has expanded partnerships to include end users in all NWS Regions, National Centers, and other government agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, U.S.D.A., and state environmental agencies. Over the decade SPoRT has consistently used a research to operations/operations to research paradigm to interact with end users, involving them in the process of product development, tailored training, and product assessment/feedback. This process has even led to algorithm improvements within GPM IMERG and the NESDIS Snowfall Rate to accelerate operational use of research products.  Interaction with end users has even led to the pursuit of research projects such as limb correction to improve RGB imagery and interpretation or developing a methodology to correct land surface model data with satellite soil moisture. In order to introduce experimental products into the fast-paced operational environment SPoRT developed applications-based training concepts such as the Quick Guide that has been shared with and adopted by others in the community. Also notable- early activities within SPoRT to leverage NASA data for disaster response, led to a bigger presence in and significant contributions to the NASA Disasters Program. Below is a review of notable publications, blog posts and tweets over the past decade:

— 2010 —

Notable Publication

Utilizing Total Lightning Information to Diagnose Convective Trends

Top Blog Post

Experimental MODIS RGB Color Composites of Hurricane Earl

— 2011 —

Notable Publication

NASA satellite data assist in tornado damage assessments

Top Blog Post

Analyzing MODIS Imagery of North Alabama Tornado Tracks

Top Tweets

— 2012 —

Notable Publications

The GOES-R Proving Ground: Accelerating User Readiness for the Next-Generation Geostationary Environmental Satellite System

Diagnosis of a dense fog event using MODIS and high resolution GOES satellite products with direct model output

Top Blog Post

Dust Storm in the Plains Captured well in MODIS Dust RGB Imagery

Top Tweets

— 2013 —

Notable Publications

Transitioning research satellite data to the operational weather community: The SPoRT Paradigm

Transitioning research to operations: Transforming the “valley of death” into a “valley of opportunity

The emergence of weather-related test beds linking research and forecasting operations

The GOES-R Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) 

Application of next-generation satellite data to a high-resolution, real-time land surface model

Multispectral imagery for detecting stratospheric air intrusions associated with mid-latitude cyclones

Top Blog Post

Long flash observed by the Colorado Lightning Mapping Array

Top Tweets

— 2014 —

Notable Publications

A Real-Time MODIS Vegetation Product for Land Surface and Numerical Weather Prediction Models 

Total lightning observations and tools for the 20 May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, tornadic supercell

Satellite-based identification of tornado damage tracks from the 27 April 2011 severe weather outbreak 

Top Blog Post

VIIRS Day Night Band (DNB) RGB Imagery Assisted by Nighttime-Microphysics RGB

Top Tweets

— 2015 —

Notable Publications

Development and Application of Atmospheric Infrared Sounder Ozone Retrieval Products for Operational Meteorology

Satellite tools to monitor and predict Hurricane Sandy (2012): Current and emerging products

Transitioning NASA and NOAA Satellite Products, Modeling & Data Assimilation Techniques, and Nowcasting Tools to Operations

Demonstration of a GOES-R Satellite Convective Toolkit to “Bridge the Gap” between Severe Weather Watches and Warnings: An Example from the 20 May 2013 Moore, Oklahoma, Tornado Outbreak

Top Blog Post

From Drought To Flooding In Less Than A Week Over The Carolinas As Depicted By SPoRT LIS

Top Tweets

— 2016 —

Notable Publications

Assimilation of SMOS Retrievals in the Land Information System

Limb correction of MODIS and VIIRS infrared channels for the improved interpretation of RGB composites

Next Generation Satellite RGB Dust Imagery Demonstration Leads to Changes in Communication and Services by NWS Albuquerque Forecast Office

From drought to flash flooding in less than a week over South Carolina

The operational use and assessment of a layered precipitable water product for weather forecasting

Monitoring and tracking the trans-Pacific transport of aerosols using multi-satellite aerosol optical depth composites

Top Blog Post

Precip Estimates offshore using NASA IMERG

Top Tweets

— 2017 —

Notable Publications

Transforming satellite data into weather forecasts

Lightning decision support using VHF total lightning mapping and NLDN cloud-to-ground data in North Alabama 

Top Blog Post

Category 5 Hurricane Irma as Observed by the GOES 16 GLM


 Top Tweets

— 2018 —

Notable Publications

A Methodology to Determine Recipe Adjustments for Multispectral Composites Derived from Next-Generation Advanced Satellite Imagers

Utility of CrIS/ATMS profiles to diagnose extratropical transition

Correction of Forcing-Related Spatial Artifacts in a Land Surface Model by Satellite Soil Moisture Data Assimilation

Evolution of 2016 drought in the southeastern United States from a land surface modeling perspective

Snowfall rates from satellite data help weather forecasters

Impact of dust aerosols on precipitation associated with atmospheric rivers using WRF-Chem simulations

Characteristics of Lightning Within Electrified Snowfall Events Using Lightning Mapping Arrays 

Top Blog Post

Plenty of fresh Powder for Paralympic Winter Games in-Pyeongchang Three Snowstorms in Eight Days

Top Tweets

— 2019 —

Notable Publications

Incorporation and Use of Earth Remote Sensing Imagery within the NOAA/NWS Damage Assessment Toolkit

Geostationary Lightning Mapper Flash Characteristics of Electrified Snowfall Events

Limb Correction of Geostationary Infrared Imagery in Clear and Cloudy Regions to Improve Interpretation of RGB Composites for Real-Time Applications

Addressing the Cold Air Aloft Aviation Challenge with Satellite Sounding Observations

Gulf of Alaska cyclone in daytime microphysics RGB imagery

Development and Evaluation of the GLM Stoplight Product for Lightning Safety

Spatial, Temporal and Electrical Characteristics of Lightning in Reported Lightning-Initiated Wildfire Events 

Top Blog Posts

GLM Sees Apparent Meteor Flash in Western Cuba

Normalized Burn Ratio (NBR) Imagery in AWIPS

Top Tweets

Into the next decade

During the past decade SPoRT has made notable contributions to bridge the valley of death to transition research to operations and maximize the benefit of NASA and NOAA remote sensing observations for the benefit of society.  SPoRT has conducted a range of research in key areas including modeling and satellite data assimilation, remote sensing, and lightning.  In addition, SPoRT has partnered with other researchers, product/algorithm developers, and end users to assess products in the operational environment, create training, and assess their utility.  The team has observed research capabilities transform into operational products as a result of end user interaction and many of those examples are highlighted above! Into the next decade SPoRT will continue to foster interaction between research and operations as well as conduct research in focus areas that include lighting, synoptic/mesoscale meteorology, tropical meteorology, land surface modeling, health/air quality, and hazards.  SPoRT has already begun engaging in new NASA missions such as TEMPO and TROPICS that will bring unprecedented observations to benefit science and applications.  In addition, SPoRT is using their expertise in transition of research to operations to anticipate applications of future missions by actively participating in the NASA Decadal Survey Designated Observable studies.  We look forward to continuing to bridge the gap between research and operations, bringing new NASA capabilities to end users, in the new decade ahead! Thank you to all the SPoRT team members,  collaborators, and end users who have contributed to many of the projects described above.

Transition of Research to Operations – Gridded NUCAPS

Transition of Research to Operations – Gridded NUCAPS

By Emily Berndt

SPoRT has been part of a collaborative effort within the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Proving Ground Sounding Initiative* to develop the capability for 2D display of satellite soundings in the NOAA NWS decision support system (AWIPS).  CrIS/ATMS (Cross-track Infrared Sounder/Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder) temperature and moisture soundings are processed through the NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS) and are good quality in clear to partly cloudy regions but soundings are poor quality where cloud cover is over 85% and when precipitating conditions exist.  Currently, NWS offices receive NOAA-20 CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Soundings through the Satellite Broadcast Network for display as vertical soundings and Gridded NUCAPS is the capability to process and view these data horizontally and vertically (Fig. 1).  Up until now, Gridded NUCAPS has been pre-processed at SPoRT and provided experimentally to Alaska Region NWS offices and the Hazardous Weather Testbed.  The team worked with NOAA/CIRA/MDL to create an AWIPS plug-in to grid the soundings upon arrival and ingest in AWIPS.  Gridded NUCAPS has been a successful multi-organizational collaborative R2O/O2R project with a transition to operations in sight. With the official 19.2.1 AWIPS release coming soon SPoRT is finalizing development of training material and an NWS VLab page to highlight the Gridded NUCAPS capability, products, and helpful hints….more information will be forthcoming  as these items are completed!  NWS offices that are beta testers for new AWIPS releases, such as the Huntsville forecast office will be able to display Gridded NUCAPS with AWIPS 19.2.1-29 prior to the official release.

*including NOAA NWS, Science and Technology Corporation, the Cooperative Institute for Research of the Atmosphere, Geographic Information Network of Alaska, Space Science Engineering Center/Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, and NOAA/NWS/MDL.

Figure 1. Left: NOAA-20 CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Sounding Availability in AWIPS and Right: Gridded NUCAPS plan view display of 700 mb Lapse Rates. Demontrates the NUCAPS Soundings are Gridded for plan view and cross section display.  Image courtesy of Kevin Fuell (UAH/NASA SPoRT).

Gridded NUCAPS was originally developed to diagnose Cold Air Aloft (CAA; Weaver et al. 2019) and NWS Anchorage Center Weather Service Unit aviation forecasters have benefited from this capability to issue public products regarding CAA. Additionally Gridded NUCAPS has been extensively evaluated at the Hazardous Weather Testbed for assessing the pre-convective environment (Berndt et al. 2017). As part of the JPSS Sounding Initiative, the team of collaborators is exploring new applications for Gridded NUCAPS (e.g., fire weather, turbulence, and icing) and exploring the benefits of the microwave-only NUCAPS Soundings for applications in cloudy regions.  A few new capabilities of Gridded NUCAPS include display of fields such as precipitable water to diagnose moist/dry layers in the atmosphere, the Haines Index for fire weather potential (Fig.2), and SPoRT-developed ozone products (e.g., Total Ozone, Ozone Anomaly, and Tropopause Level) to diagnose the potential for tropopause folding and cyclogenesis.

Look for Gridded NUCAPS posters and presentations at the National Weather Association Annual Meeting and the AMS Joint Satellite Conference – both in September!


Figure 2. Top: Example of Haines Index image and icons plotted with Gridded NUCAPS compared to Bottom: GFS Haines Index and Icons for a fire that began on 23 July 2018 near Northway, AK.


A GOES-16 Multispectral View of the Late Season Nor’easter

A high impact late season Nor’easter is unfolding across the Mid-Atlantic and New England today.  An enhanced view of the impressive storm is possible with multispectral (i.e. RGB) imagery since GOES-16 ABI has 16 bands available compared to legacy GOES sensors. Both the Day Land Cloud RGB (Fig. 1) and Air Mass RGB (Fig. 2) were developed by EUMETSAT and provided to European forecasters with the launch of Meteosat-8 SEVIRI in the early 2000s. These RGBs are part of the set of EUMETSAT RGB best practices that was later adopted by the WMO and today are widely used by other countries such as Japan and Australia who have access to Himawari-8 AHI derived RGB products.  NASA SPoRT has worked closely with the GOES-R/JPSS Proving Grounds to provide RGB products derived from MODIS, VIIRS, AVHRR, and AHI to NWS offices, National Centers, and the Operations Proving Ground to prepare forecasters for multispectral capabilities with GOES-16.  More recently, NASA SPoRT has been working with the Total Operational Weather Readiness – Satellites (TOWR-S) and the Satellite Enhancement Team to provide client-side RGB imagery to the National Weather Service for use in operations.  These are just two examples of GOES-16 ABI RGB imagery that will be available to NWS forecasters in the near future.  A brief explanation of each product is found in the caption and links to training resources are below.


Fig. 1 Day Land Cloud RGB 14 March 2017 15:52 UTC.  Provides the ability to distinguish snow from clouds.  Snow appears cyan, low water clouds appear gray to dull white, and high ice clouds appear cyan.  Although snow and high ice clouds both appear cyan, snow can be distinguished since it remains stationary.

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.


Fig. 2 Air Mass RGB 14 March 2017 15:52 UTC.  The Air Mass RGB was designed to anticipate rapid cyclogenesis by enhancing regions of anomalous potential vorticity near the jet stream in orange/red tones.  These regions indicate where warm, dry, ozone-rich stratospheric air is being pull downward by the jet stream, which can be in indication of rapid cyclogenesis.  Low-, mid-, and high-clouds can also be identified in the RGB. Low clouds appear blue/green, mid clouds appear tan, and high clouds appear bright white.  Compare the clouds in the Air Mass RGB with the clouds in the Day Land Cloud RGB above to identify cloud height.

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.

For more information on the Day Land Cloud and Air Mass RGBs, including interpretation please see:

NASA SPoRT Natural Color RGB Quick Guide (PDF and Interactive)

EUMETSAT Natural Color RGB Interpretation Guide

NASA SPoRT Air Mass RGB Quick Guide (PDF and Interactive)

EUMETSAT Air Mass RGB Interpretation Guide

GOES-16 Air Mass RGB and NUCAPS Soundings

SPoRT has worked closely with the GOES-R and JPSS Proving Grounds to explore innovative applications for the Air Mass RGB and CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Soundings.  Specific applications include identification of stratospheric air influence and tropopause folding to anticipate rapid cyclogenesis and hurricane tropical to extratropical transition.

When the Air Mass RGB was first introduced to NOAA NWS National Center forecasters in 2012, SPoRT developed a total column ozone product from the NASA AIRS instrument (a hyperspectral infrared sounder) as a way to help forecasters gain confidence in interpreting the qualitative RGB.  Since that time SPoRT has continued to develop quantitative ozone products such as the ozone anomaly and tropopause height products from additional hyperspectral infrared sensors such as CrIS/ATMS and IASI.

More recently, CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Soundings were added to AWIPS-II for forecasters to utilize in operations.  SPoRT has specifically explored the utility of NUCAPS Soundings for hurricane tropical to extratropical transition (see link to training material).   With the availability of the GOES-16 Air Mass RGB and NUCAPS Soundings in AWIPS-II there is an opportunity to explore rapid cyclogenesis cases and extratropical transition events with next-generation satellite capabilities.  Since we have the capability to display the client-side generated Air Mass RGB here at SPoRT, here is a quick preview of how the NUCAPS Soundings can be used to compliment the Air Mass RGB.


GOES-16 AWIPS-II client-side generated Air Mass RGB 3 March 1817 UTC

Please note, the GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational data and are undergoing testing. Users bear all responsibility for inspecting the data prior to use and for the manner in which the data are utilized.

The Air Mass RGB is able to detect temperature and moisture characteristics in the mid- to upper levels of the atmosphere.  Warm, dry air upper level air appears in red/orange tones. Dry upper level air appears more red when associated with anomalous potential vorticity as warm, dry, ozone-rich air is pulled downward by the jet stream circulation.   Dry upper levels away from the jet stream appear orange. In contrast warm, moist tropical air appears in green tones, appearing more olive when less moisture is present.


Air Mass RGB interpretation guide adapted from EUMETSAT (Zavodsky et al. 2013)

In the Air Mass RGB image above you can see a well-defined upper-level temperature and moisture boundary across the southern U.S. associated with yesterday’ s passing frontal system.  NUCAPS Soundings can provide additional information about the thermodynamic and stability characteristics of the lower-levels of the atmosphere which cannot be deciphered in the Air Mass RGB.  The Sounding at Location 1 shows a mostly dry atmospheric column, which is typical for the orange colored regions (i.e dry upper levels) in the RGB, note however there are moister conditions around 850 mb.    The Soundings at Location 2 and 3 in the green colored regions (i.e. moist upper levels)  confirm moist upper-level conditions.  What the NUCAPS Soundings reveal is a layer of much drier mid-level air between about 850-400 mb, which cannot be detected in the Air Mass RGB.  The ability to detect such a layer can be important in data sparse regions.  Although this is a benign weather situation where much of the Southeast enjoyed sunny, cool, and dry conditions today, this same technique can be applied to more intense, high impact events to assess the thermodynamic environment surrounding a developing low pressure system or weakening hurricane where moist or dry layers can have an impact on storm intensity.


AWIPS-II CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Sounding 3 March 2017 1817 UTC at Location 1


AWIPS-II CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Sounding 3 March 1817 UTC at Location 2


AWIPS-II CrIS/ATMS NUCAPS Sounding 3 March 2017 1817 UTC at Location 3


For more information regarding the Air Mass RGB, including applications and interpretation guides for the color features in the imagery:

NUCAPS Soundings and Hurricane Matthew

CrIS/ATMS soundings processed through the NOAA Unique Combine Processing System (NUCAPS) are available in AWIPS.  SPoRT is working with the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) Proving Ground to testbed the utility of NUCAPS soundings to anticipate hurricane tropical to extratropical transition.  Although satellite derived soundings are “smoother” than radiosondes they can provide valuable information about the depth of moist or dry layers in data sparse regions. Forecasters can anticipate extratropical transition by identifying the dry slot and upstream potential vorticity anomalies on satellite imagery that may interact with a storm while also considering many other factors that lead to extratropical transition.  Although Hurricane Matthew is not expected to undergo extratropical transition for quite a few days, the NUCAPS Soundings can be used to diagnose the temperature and moisture characteristics surrounding the hurricane as highlighted below.

GOES-13 water vapor imagery shows dry upper levels west of Hurricane Matthew and abundant moisture surrounding the system (Fig. 1).  Since water vapor imagery can only detect moisture characteristics in the mid-to upper- levels of the atmosphere, the NUCAPS soundings (green dots on Fig. 1) can be analyzed to provide more information about the vertical extent of the dry air and whether it is in close proximity to the hurricane in the mid- to lower- levels.


Fig. 1. 5 October 2016 1830 UTC GOES-13 water vapor imagery and 1811 UTC NUCAPS Soundings. Green dots represent point and click soundings. Blue numbers label location of example soundings highlighted below.

Scroll down through the example Soundings to compare the changes in moisture conditions west of Hurricane Matthew. Soundings 1 and 2 (Fig. 2 and 3), taken in a region of dry air as identified by the orange color enhancement on the water vapor imagery, confirm a dry column throughout the depth of the atmosphere. Sounding 3 (Fig. 4) shows the drying is not as intense in the upper-levels and mid-level drying extends down to about 600 mb. Sounding 4 and 5 (Fig. 5 and 6) show upper level conditions are more moist closer to the hurricane, as expected from the water vapor imagery. While Sounding 4 (Fig. 5) shows moist conditions throughout the atmospheric column, Sounding 5 (Fig. 6) does show mid-level dry air is present.  Previous analysis of Sandy 2012 and Arthur 2014 showed the same signature (e. g., similar to Sounding 5) became more abundant surrounding the systems as upper-level dry air intruded.  Currently, there are very few soundings with this signature surrounding Hurricane Matthew.  The NUCAPS soundings confirm dry atmospheric conditions are well west of the system and there is very little mid- to low- level dry air in the proximity of the system.  This preliminary example is presented but as Hurricane Matthew continues to evolve NUCAPS Soundings and SPoRT Ozone Products will be analyzed to discern the utility for anticipating dry air intrusion and associated hurricane tropical to extratropical transition.

Sounding 1


Fig. 2. 5 October 2016 1811 UTC NUCAPS Sounding at Location 1.


Sounding 2


Fig. 3. 5 October 2016 1811 UTC NUCAPS Sounding at Location 2.

Sounding 3


Fig. 4. 5 October 2016 1811 UTC NUCAPS Sounding at Location 3.

Sounding 4


Fig. 5. 5 October 2016 1811 UTC NUCAPS Sounding at Location 4.

Sounding 5


Fig. 6. 5 October 2016 1811 UTC NUCAPS Sounding at Location 5.



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)

Himawari Highlights the Active West Pacific

With the launch of Himawari-8 and the new capabilities of the Advanced Himawari Imager (AHI) payload, meteorologists can monitor the Pacific Ocean basin with increased temporal and spatial resolution, i.e 10 minute imagery at 2 km resolution.   For National Centers such as the Ocean Prediction Center and Weather Prediction Center with forecast responsibilities that cover much of the northwest hemisphere, this imagery is integral to their operations.  SPoRT has begun providing the suite of RGB products to the National Centers for use in operations.

The Pacific Ocean basin has been quite active this season with multiple occasions where there were 2-3 tropical systems in the basin at the same time. Here is just one of many impressive examples of the utility of AHI imagery available to forecasters.  Earlier this week Tropical Storm Etau became post-tropical as it interacted with a mid-latitude frontal system.  At the same time Typhoon Kilo was traversing the Pacific.  At this point Kilo has weakened to a Tropical Storm and is beginning to interact with the remnants of Etau.  Check out OPC’s Facebook page for more examples of AHI imagery in operations (

OPC Pacific Surface Analysis valid 8 Sept. 2015 1200 UTC

OPC Pacific Surface Analysis valid 8 Sept. 2015 1200 UTC.

NASA SPoRT AHI Air Mass RGB Imagery. 8 Sept. 2015 1000 UTC to 9 Sept. 2015 1800 UTC highlighting Tropical Storm Etau interacting with a mid-latitude frontal system and Typhoon Kilo traversing the Pacific Ocean.

NASA SPoRT AHI Air Mass RGB in AWIPS-II 9 Sept. 2015 2000 UTC.

NASA SPoRT AHI Air Mass RGB in AWIPS-II 9 Sept. 2015 2000 UTC. Highlighting the remnants of Tropical Storm Etau and Tropical Storm Kilo.

OPC Pacific Surface Analysis valid 10 Sept. 2015 1200 UTC.

OPC Pacific Surface Analysis valid 10 Sept. 2015 1200 UTC.

NASA SPoRT AHI Air Mass RGB in AWIPS-II 10 Sept. 2015 1450 UTC. Tropical Storm Kilo beginning to interact with the remnants of Tropical Storm Etau.

NASA SPoRT AHI Air Mass RGB in AWIPS-II 10 Sept. 2015 1450 UTC. Tropical Storm Kilo beginning to interact with the remnants of Tropical Storm Etau.

Near-Real Time NUCAPS Data via NOAA CLASS Subscription Service

SPoRT has been investigating options to obtain near-real time NUCAPS (NOAA Unique CrIS and ATMS Processing System) data to expand the ozone products to Suomi NPP retrievals.  The AIRS ozone products cover a Northwestern Hemisphere domain (Link to SPoRT AIRS products) and were specifically created for the National Centers (WPC and OPC) to aid interpretation of the Air Mass RGB for identifying and forecasting stratospheric intrusions that can lead to rapid cyclogenesis and hurricane-force wind events in the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans. The AIRS data are obtained from NASA Land Atmosphere Near-Real Time Capability for EOS (LANCE), rather than Direct Broadcast, so that the products can be created in hourly swaths that cover the OPC domain. Since the ozone products are created from polar-orbiting retrievals, forecasters are eager for better temporal and spatial resolution.  Use of retrievals from newer instruments such as Suomi-NPP CrIS/ATMS can provide additional overpasses to improve spatial and temporal resolution when paired with AIRS.

Suomi NPP data are available on the NOAA Comprehensive Large Array-Data Stewardship System (CLASS).  Typically data are obtained from CLASS by choosing options such as data type, domain, and time on the website and placing an order. Depending on the size of the order, it can take about an hour to 24 hours for your request to be processed and ready for download via ftp.  Manually placing an order is not an optimal approach for near-real time data processing and product development.

Recently SPoRT investigated the CLASS subscription service and has had success in obtaining NUCAPS data with a 2-3 hour latency. The CLASS subscription service is a valuable tool, comparable to NASA LANCE, for obtaining near-real time NUCAPS data. Others in the community who are interested in obtaining NUCAPS data with reduced latency and need a larger domain than what is available from Direct Broadcast should investigate the CLASS subscription service. Below is a outline of steps to set up a CLASS subscription for NUCAPS data.

First go to CLASS, create a user account and sign in. Click on “Subscriptions” in the left side menu. Choose your data product from the dropdown menu and click “Add New” to begin setting up the subscription details.  For NUCAPS choose S-NPP Data Exploitation Granule Data (NDE_L2)


Next, set up the search criteria for your subscription by choosing the domain either by making a box on the map or entering latitude and longitude values beside the map.  Click on the box next to “NUCAPS Environmental Data Records” and click on  “S-NPP”.  Click on “Delivery Options” to continue.


Last set up the delivery options.  Choose “yes” for a recurring schedule and set the start and end dates.  The start and end dates do not include the year, therefore you’ll need to modify the start and end date as the end of the year approaches.  Choose whether or not you want email notifications. I would initially choose “yes” so you can start to gauge how quickly your subscription is being processed from the time your data arrives in CLASS.  Note that you will get an email for every granule and sometimes the email notifications are delayed quite a bit after your data is ready.  The notifications are initially helpful as you first set-up your subscription. As a side note I did enjoy spamming myself with approximately 20-30 CLASS email notifications per hour when I first set up my subscription so I could see how it was working and could gauge the data latency.  Most important, choose how often you want to receive data in the dropdown list beside “Include delivery manifest”. I’ve chosen “Every 1 hour”, but depending on the product and your needs, you can choose any interval from 1-24 hours. Features such as the digital signature and checksum aren’t always necessary but you can decide if you need them by reading about them on the class help pages.  Now click “Save” to finish.


Once your subscription is set up, you can log in at any time to view, modify, or disable your subscription.  Just click on “Subscriptions” on the left side menu after you have logged in.

Once your data arrives in CLASS your order will be processed. Therefore the subscription service can provide automatic distribution of near-real time products as long as the data is arriving in CLASS near-real time. If the data is not pushed to CLASS near-real time by the product developer or NDE than the subscription service can’t be used for near-real time purposes (unless you don’t mind a 6-24 hour or longer latency).  Not all Suomi NPP products are pushed to CLASS in a real-real time capability. Thankfully NUCAPS is pushed to CLASS relatively quickly after it is processed and can be obtained via CLASS near-real time.  Your subscription will have a unique ID and your order will be available on the ftp site in a directory named with your username and subscription ID.  The data will also be available via a unique http site named with your username and subscription ID. Now your data is in one place and can be accessed via scripting and ftp without manually submitting an order on CLASS.

Latency of products getting to CLASS and figuring out how to order data without manually submitting an order on the website have been the largest deterrents for SPoRT using CLASS data for real-time product development.  Not all Suomi NPP data is immediately pushed to CLASS near-real time, however contacts at NESDIS have indicated that in the next 6-months or so, more Suomi NPP data will be pushed to CLASS in near-real time mode. Utilizing the CLASS subscription service opens up a new opportunity for SPoRT and the community to use NUCAPS data (and in the near future, other Suomi NPP data sets) from CLASS for product development.

More information on CLASS subscriptions can be found within the CLASS help pages.

NASA Next-Generation Satellite Observations of Hurricane Odile

NASA Next-Generation Satellite Observations of Hurricane Odile

A unique weather event is unfolding this week as Hurricane Odile, now a tropical storm, is impacting Baja California Sur, bringing heavy rain and high winds to the region and causing tourists to evacuate resorts. The National Hurricane Center reports that Odile ties Olivia (1967) as the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the satellite era in Baja California Sur**. NASA SPoRT provides specialized satellite products to National Weather Service Forecast Offices as well as National Centers such as the National Hurricane Center to aid forecasting high impact events such as Hurricane Odile.

Below is an example of Passive Microwave RGB imagery created from the NASA Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission as part of The Core Observatory satellite launched on 27 February 2014. The images are in N-AWIPS (National Centers for Environmental Prediction Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System) format and are an example of products available to forecasters at the National Hurricane Center.  Forecasters use the 89 GHz RGB product to look for areas of strong convection which show up as deep red as seen in Fig. 1 which captures Hurricane Odile a few hours before landfall.

89 GHz RGB 0121 UTC 15 September 2014. Areas of deep convection appear red and can be seen surrounding the eye wall and within the rainbands of Odile in this image a few hours before landfall.

Figure 1. GMI 89 GHz RGB 0121 UTC 15 September 2014. Areas of deep convection appear red and can be seen surrounding the eye and within the rainbands of Hurricane Odile in this image a few hours before landfall.

The 37 GHz can additionally be used to distinguish areas of deep cloudiness (light blue) from more active convection (pink) as well as open water (green) or land (cyan).  Note the areas of pink or active convective in Fig. 2 surrounding the eye and within the rainbands.


Figure 2. GMI 37 GHz RGB 0121 UTC 15 September 2014. Areas of active convection appear pink and can be seen surrounding the eye and within the rainbands of Hurricane Odile in this image a few hours before landfall.

Figure 3 and 4 show similar observations from the legacy NASA Tropical Rainfall Measurement Mission (TRMM) as Hurricane Odile made landfall near Cabo San Lucas around 445 UTC 15 September. TRMM is expected to run out of fuel by February 2016 and will no longer be available to collect valuable observations. We are well prepared for a replacement with GPM in orbit and already collecting observations.

TRMM 89 GHz RGB 0307 UTC 15 September 2014

Figure 3. TRMM 89 GHz RGB 0307 UTC 15 September 2014.  Areas of deep convection appear red and can be seen surrounding the eye and within the rainbands of Hurricane Odile in this image a little over one hour before landfall.


Figure 4. TRMM 37 GHz RGB 0307 UTC 15 September 2014.  Areas of active convection appear pink and can be seen surrounding the eye and within the rainbands of Hurricane Odile in this image a little over one hour before landfall.

Additionally the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day-Night Band Radiance imagery from the next generation NASA Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) satellite shows an impressive picture of Hurricane Odile approximately one day before landfall (Fig. 5). Note the city lights that can be seen through the clouds in Fig. 5 as well as lightning within the area of convection in the rainband. This imagery can be used to support disaster response and help emergency managers identify the areas where conditions have caused power outages. Local knowledge of city light patterns can allow users to identify where the most significant power outages are and determine where to begin relief efforts.

VIIRS Day-Night Band Radiance

Figure 5. VIIRS Day-Night Band Radiance 0904 UTC 14 September 2014. City lights and lightning observed approximately one day before Hurricane Odile made landfall.

As the community transitions from legacy instruments such at TRMM and MODIS, NASA SPoRT will continue to develop unique products from Next-Generation missions such as GPM and Suomi NPP to aid National Weather Service Forecast Offices and National Centers in forecasting high impact events such as Hurricane Odile.

**see archived National Hurricane Center forecast discussion at