SPoRT-created training material now available via the new AIR Tool within AWIPS

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Training material now available for use by NWS forecasters via the new AIR tool within AWIPS. This example shows the SPoRT-created Nighttime Microphysics RGB Quick Guide.

NASA SPoRT has been working to get training materials available to NWS forecasters via the new AWIPS Integrated Reference (AIR) tool.  This Twitter post and attached video details how NWS forecasters can access the new training material.  This training is now available with the current POES RGB imagery, but will also be available once RGB imagery from GOES-16 is available in AWIPS. SPoRT will be working to add new training content within Vlab and accessible via the AIR tool in the coming months.

…And GOES-R is off!

Today, the GOES-R satellite launched from Kennedy Space Center at approximately 642 EST!  As a forecaster, I am very excited about the flow of data and imagery that will be available to us in the near future.  Congratulation to all those who have invested so much time and energy into this project.

The GOES-R satellite launches aboard an Atlas-V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center, approx 642 pm EST.

The GOES-R satellite launches aboard an Atlas-V Rocket at Kennedy Space Center, approx 642 pm EST.

SPoRT would like to thank our collaborators who have worked with us to develop forecasting and other applications for this mission during recent years. And we look forward to continued collaborative projects in the future!

Southeastern Fires Observed in VIIRS Imagery…

A number of fires have erupted in recent weeks due in part to the drought gripping parts of the Southeast U.S.  Especially hard hit are areas in and around the southern Appalachians, extending into central portions of Alabama and Georgia, where D3 (Extreme) to D4 (Exceptional) drought conditions exist, per the latest U.S. Drought Monitor (Image 1).

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Image 1. U.S. Drought Monitor for 8 November 2016. Notice the large area of D3-D4 drought gripping parts of the Southeast.

Recently, the fires and some smoke were captured well in Shortwave IR (Image 2) and Day-Night Band imagery (Image 3) produced by the VIIRS instrument onboard the Suomi NPP satellite.

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Image 2. Fires appear as small black dots in the Shortwave IR (~3.7 um) imagery taken at 0734 UTC 15 Nov 2016.

 

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Image 3. In this Day-Night Band Radiance RGB, the fires (center of white circles) appear similar to city lights, however smoke plumes are evident with some of the stronger and heavier smoke-producing fires (red ovals), 0734 UTC 15 Nov 2016

Since boundary layer winds tend to shift direction at night with the loss of deep mixing, the Day-Night Band image can be used by forecasters to detect how smoke plumes change direction at night and may help with forecasts of smoke impacts.

Transition to CONUS SPoRT LIS Underway…

So, we’ve finally begun the process of transitioning over fully to the new CONUS version of the SPoRT LIS.  This “new” version of the SPoRT LIS has been under development actually for several years now, and underwent initial testing and evaluation at the Huntsville WFO in spring 2015, followed by an evaluation by several WFOs and RFCs in summer 2015.  Image 1 below shows the differences in the domains.  The new version of the SPoRT LIS encompasses the entire CONUS and surrounding areas of southern Canada and northern Mexico, albeit with some anticipated degradation especially in the border regions due to lack of consistent radar/precipitation coverage.

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Image 1. The CONUS SPoRT LIS (left) and the approximate domain of the old Southeast CONUS version (right).  Note: the images are from different periods.

Not only does the CONUS version offer a geographic expansion over the previous version of the LIS, but new variables are a part of the new SPoRT LIS, including 0-200 cm relative soil moisture changes on several timescales (weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, seasonal, semi-annual and annual) soil moisture percentiles and soil temperatures.  The soil moisture percentiles and change values can be especially useful for the drought designation and analysis process, and have been used in this capacity at the Huntsville office since their inception.  Of course, there are other applications for hydrology, fire weather and blowing dust.  We’re planning to explore more of these latter unique and interesting applications with several of SPoRT’s collaborative Western CONUS WFOs next spring and summer.  The SPoRT LIS soil temperature data have shown promising application for impacts during winter weather events during evaluation of a few events in the previous winter, with more evaluation expected during the upcoming winter.  In addition to the new variables, the new version of the SPoRT LIS is using NSSL’s Multi-Radar Multi-Sensor data for precipitation forcing in the near term and is also solely incorporating the VIIRS GVF over the legacy MODIS GVF.

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Image 2. Examples of SPoRT LIS 0-200 cm relative soil moisture weekly change (left) and 0-200 cm relative soil moisture percentile (right)

Users of the SPoRT LIS and GVF data for their local modeling purposes will need to make the appropriate changes to their EMS/UEMS model runs to properly incorporate these new data sets.  Please contact Jon Case at SPoRT or me (Kris White) if you have any questions.  Thanks for reading!

VIIRS Day-Night Band Imagery and Fog Detection

Working midnight shifts this past weekend, I had the opportunity to take a look at the VIIRS Day-Night Band Imagery for the detection and analysis of fog.  Early Monday morning, the observation at Ft. Payne was indicating fog with 1/2 statute mile visibility.  However, the presence of thin cirrus over parts of the area did not allow for the observation of ground phenomena, including fog, in the region via traditional Shortwave IR imagery (Image 1).  However, low clouds and fog were observed in the VIIRS Day-Night Band imagery since the cirrus were sufficiently translucent in the visible portion of the spectrum (Image 2).

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Image 1. VIIRS 3.9 µm IR image provided by NASA SPoRT, valid 0728 UTC 22 Aug 2016. Fog cannot be observed in the 3.9 um imagery since the cirrus are sufficiently opaque at this wavelength.

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Image 2. VIIRS Day-Night Band Reflectance provided by NASA SPoRT, valid 0728 UTC 22 August 2016. Fog can be seen in the narrow Paint Rock Valley of western Jackson County (in northeastern Alabama). Despite the observation of fog at Ft. Payne (DeKalb County AL, –located to the SE of Jackson County), fog cannot be readily observed in the imagery, suggesting that the fog was very localized and perhaps shallow.

I could show the standard fog product imagery (11-3.9 µm), but the story is essentially the same as that of the 3.9 µm imagery of course.  The ability to see through thin cirrus is one of the primary advantages offered by the VIIRS Day-Night Band imagery and thus is among its most useful applications, operationally speaking.  These imagery are a part of the JPSS Proving Ground and have been available in AWIPS here at the HUN office for several years now, including other SPoRT collaborative partners.

In this particular case, it was operationally advantageous to see that the extent of the fog was not widespread and was just confined to some of the more fog-prone valley locations, especially the Paint Rock Valley, and may have only been highly localized to Ft. Payne, or even just the Ft Payne airport observation location.  Had the fog been observed through a larger area in Jackson and especially in DeKalb Counties, then a dense fog advisory might have been necessary.

 

Observations of NUCAPS Soundings in the TN Valley — 20 July 2016

So, recently I’ve had the opportunity to use and evaluate soundings from the NOAA Unique Combined Atmospheric Processing System (NUCAPS).  These soundings, produced by the ATMS and CrIS instruments onboard the Suomi NPP satellite, are available in AWIPS generally twice per day over any given location.

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Image 1.  NUCAPS Sounding data availability example, ~19 UTC 24 July 2016. Colors represent quality control flags — green are considered best available and most representative data.

A couple of advantages of the NUCAPS soundings is they’re available in relatively high spatial resolution (image 1) and also in between radiosonde launches.  So, a forecaster wanting to know more about tropospheric conditions during the midday or early afternoon (usually the most crucial period for severe weather analysis) can utilize NUCAPS sounding data, since radiosonde data won’t be available until later in the evening (unless ~18 UTC launches are being conducted at their location).  On a number of days in recent weeks, a lack of sufficient boundary layer moisture (probably partly due to an ongoing drought in the region) have dampened convective development.  A good understanding of the degree of convective inhibition (CIN) present on a given day can be difficult to obtain and model analyses and forecasts don’t always seem to have a good handle on this.  Even other robust analyses often struggle with a seemingly accurate depiction of CIN on many days.  However, knowledge of CIN, among other factors, can be important when forecasting probabilities for convective development on summer days.

Recently however, I’ve noticed that NUCAPS soundings did indicate the presence of CIN when convective development was perhaps less than expected or forecast.  July 20th was one of these days.  Take a look at the NAM Bufr Sounding for HSV, valid for 19 UTC on 20 July 2016 (image 2).

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Image 2.  NAM Bufr Sounding for KHSV, 19 UTC 20 July 2016

The NAM Bufr model sounding indicated robust CAPE values (generally >2500 J/Kg) and little to no CIN.  Now, let’s take a look at a couple of nearby representative NUCAPS soundings (unfortunately, they don’t include the associated data tables).  Image 3 shows the locations of the NUCAPS soundings with respect to the KHSV observation site and the location in the NAM forecast sounding above (image 2).

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Image 3.  NUCAPS Sounding locations for image 4…also, the KHSV location in northern Alabama

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Image 4.  NUCAPS Soundings at 19 UTC for location A (left, west of KHSV) and location B (right, southwest of KHSV), 20 July 2016

Even though data tables are not shown from the NUCAPS soundings, notice that they indicate much less instability and less steep lapse rates than the NAM Bufr sounding prognostications for the same time (19 UTC).   Also, notice that LCL levels are below the LFC, indicating some amount of CIN at both locations.  If memory serves correctly, NUCAPS soundings indicated CIN values around 25-50 J/Kg at this time.  So, for a forecaster struggling with the likelihood/coverage of convective development and the strength of convective updrafts, the NUCAPS data would have suggested lesser magnitude for both, over the NAM progs.  Image 5 shows the general dearth of convective activity in the area of northern Alabama near 19 UTC that day.  And indeed, convection was generally limited through the afternoon, with mostly isolated, small cells present.

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Image 5. Composite reflectivity (dBZ) at 1830 UTC 20 July 2016

When viewing the NUCAPS soundings, I’ve generally been looking for CAPE/CIN values while in the convective season.  Of course, having to click on a number of soundings can be a bit laborious.  As part of a JPSS Proving-Ground/Risk Reduction multi-organization project, researchers at CIMSS, CIRA, GINA and NASA SPoRT have developed gridded NUCAPS data, which were utilized in the Hazardous Weather Testbed this past spring.  I’ll be working with members of the SPoRT team to ingest those data in AWIPS II here at the HUN office in the near future for my own testing, evaluation and feedback to the NUCAPS group within the JPSS Proving Ground.  I’m looking forward to the future use and evaluation of these potentially useful operational data sets.

Total Lightning Data Use During Summertime Convection…

Here at the Huntsville, AL Weather Forecast Office (WFO) we’ve pointed out total lightning data’s operational utility a number of times in this blog.  After all, the data have been a rather integral part of our severe weather operations for at least 13 years.  Anyway…I’m going to do it again.  I think it can be beneficial to reiterate the value of certain data sets from time to time, especially to reemphasize their operational utility to new members of the forecasting and research community and perhaps newcomers to the SPoRT blog.

This afternoon and evening was a somewhat typical summertime convective event for the Tennessee Valley.  Showers and thunderstorms developed in the early afternoon and gradually increased in coverage and intensity during the mid to late afternoon hours.  By the time I arrived on shift at about 3 pm CDT, a few thunderstorms were showing signs of intense updrafts (~50 dBZ at the -10C isotherm level), but were still not to the level of producing severe weather.  Nevertheless, multiple outflow boundaries interacting with the hot, humid and unstable airmass caused decent coverage of shower and thunderstorm activity, especially in northeastern portions of Alabama during the mid afternoon into the early evening.  A few thunderstorms contained strong updrafts, heavy rainfall, frequent lightning and wind gusts up to about 40 mph.  The first of these started showing signs of strengthening in eastern portions of DeKalb County, AL shortly after 3 pm CDT.  The first image below (image 1) shows a snapshot of total lightning data (flash extent density) from the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array (NALMA) at 2014 UTC.  Values at this time in the developing storm were just around 10 flashes per 2-minutes.  By 2022 UTC however, flashes had increased to nearly 50 flashes per 2-minutes (Image 2).

Total Lightning (per North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array), 23 July 2016 2014 UTC

Image 1. Total Lightning (per North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array), 23 July 2016 2014 UTC

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Image 2.  Total lightning (per NALMA), 23 July 2016 2022 UTC

Importantly, increases in total lightning activity are directly related to updraft strength within storm cells so it was no surprise that reflectivity values increased correspondingly.  The next two images show the increases in Multi-radar Multi-sensor (MRMS) isothermal reflectivity (dBZ) at the -20 C level during the same period (Images 3 and 4).

Image 3. Multi-radar Multi-sensor isothermal reflectivity (dBZ) 23 July 2016 2014 UTC

Image 3. Multi-radar Multi-sensor isothermal reflectivity (dBZ) at -20 C over portions of NW Alabama and NW Georgia, 23 July 2016 2014 UTC

 

Image 4.

Image 4.  Multi-radar Multi-sensor isothermal reflectivity (dBZ) at -20 C over portions of NE Alabama and NW Georgia, 23 July 2016 2022 UTC

Data such as the MRMS isothermal reflectivity when used in conjunction with other data such as total lightning (or flash extent density) allow for a good evaluation of updraft development within thunderstorms and their evolution through time.  Environmental parameters on this day suggested that severe weather was not likely.  Nevertheless, the strengthening updrafts were followed by wind gusts around 30 to 40 mph, which were recorded at a few of our surface observation sites.  Special Weather Statements were used to address this marginal thunderstorm threat during the afternoon and evening.  Interestingly, notice that the total lightning data at 2022 UTC (Image 2) indicated that the updraft in the northern cell in DeKalb County was perhaps the strongest at the time (due to higher values on flash extent density), while MRMS reflectivity values were higher at the same time in the southern cell (image 4).  Subsequently, the northern cell strengthened and became the dominant cell over the next 30 minutes.  On days such as this when there are often multiple thunderstorms ongoing at any one time, and this happens often here in the TN Valley in the summertime, total lightning data can be an effective situational awareness tool for evaluating storms that are undergoing strengthening and helping to provide proper focus for operational meteorologists.