Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) Data Used to Aid in Warning Decision…

The NWS office in Huntsville, AL (HUN) has had a long history with the use of total lightning data in operations, which stretches back to the office’s inception (after NWS modernization) in 2003.  Back then, and until its removal to South America for GOES validation testing, the HUN office largely used data from the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array (NALMA). Lightning data sources from NLDN and ENTLN have also been used to varying degrees, but the advent of the GLM aboard GOES-16 brought a new era of lightning observations.  Because of the office’s participation in early operational testing of the GLM, its use and familiarity have gradually increased over the past year.  This was probably made easier due to our familiarity with total lightning data from the NALMA network.  Generally, GLM data have been used in much the same way as those from the NALMA network, especially with regards to situational awareness purposes (i.e., airport weather warnings, real-time weather watches for EM partners, initial cell electrification, etc.).  The use of the data to aid in severe weather warning decisions has been a bit slower to evolve, as might have been expected.  After all, there are differences in the way the NALMA observes lightning as compared to the GLM.  Values from the GLM have typically been “muted” compared to those from NALMA, so forecasters have had to make internal adjustments and recalibrate, if you will, what is considered significant.  However, the physical mechanisms that generate increases in total lightning, that is, increases in mixed-phase updraft volume, are essentially observed either way.  Thus, GLM data can still be useful to relate important information about storm/cell evolution, and can help to “tip the scales” in the balance of evidence about whether or not a warning may be needed.

This particular application of the GLM data occurred this morning with operational meteorologists at the HUN office.  The short image loop below shows thunderstorms moving across northwestern portions of Alabama between 1226 and 1300 UTC.  The top panel of the image contains data from the KGWX radar (0.5 degree reflectivity), while the bottom panel contains GLM 1-minute Flash Extent Density (FED) data.  Notice that lightning activity is relatively limited initially as the storm moves across western Franklin County, AL (near center of image), with 1-min FED values ranging between 2 and 6 flashes per minute.  Then, at the 12:37 UTC time mark, flashes begin an increase that manifests in a statistical lightning “jump” (GLM sigma > 2).  The warning meteorologist at the time was watching this cell for potential severe weather, and observed the sudden increase in FED values.  This, together with other radar and satellite observations (not shown here), suggested that a severe weather warning was necessary as wind signatures aloft gradually increased.  A warning was subsequently issued at 1245 UTC.  Incidentally, this thunderstorm did end up producing some wind damage, with trees reported down in south-central portions of Franklin County.  Notice also that a number of strong cell signals were detected by radar as indicated by the higher dBZ values across the domain.  Another use of the GLM is allowing meteorologists to focus on the cells with the strongest updrafts, making the overall radar interrogation and warning process more efficient.  This case can help to demonstrate that the GLM can be used as an important indicator of storm evolution and as a useful operational tool for the evaluation of severe weather potential.

-Kris W.

2PanelLoop_GWX0.5Refl_andGLM1Min_17July2019

[Top] KGWX 0.5 deg Refl with NWS Severe Thunderstorm Warning (yellow box), [Bottom] GLM 1-min Flash Extent Density, 1226-1300 UTC 17 July 2019.

GLM “sees” apparent meteor flash in Western Cuba…

So, I was seeing some news reports on Twitter this afternoon about an apparent meteor that struck Western Cuba.  Pulling up data/imagery from the GLM in AWIPS, I was able to see some relatively high Flash Extent Density (FED) values from that area at the same time of the meteor report.  The first image below shows FED values (1818 UTC) overlaying GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm) imagery at 1817 UTC.

Meteorite_WCuba_1818UTC01Feb2019

Image 1. GLM data shows an apparent meteor flash over western portions of Cuba at ~1818 UTC 1 Feb 2019. The GLM Flash Extent Density overlay GOES-16 visible (0.64 um) imagery from ~1817 UTC.

Also, notice the large amount of lightning observed by the GLM in central portions of the Gulf of Mexico.  Here’s a short 30-min image loop around this time period (the suspected meteor flash shows up about midway through the loop).  Importantly, before the GLM sensor, the amount and extent of lightning activity over open ocean areas, away from ground networks, was generally not known, especially at such high spacial/temporal resolution.

Meteorite_WCuba_30minLoop01Feb2019.png

Image 2. GLM (Flash Extent Density) and GOES-16 visible imagery (0.64 µm) loop from 1802-1830 UTC, 01 Feb 2019. An apparent meteor shows up in western Cuba at 1818 UTC in the loop. Also, notice the active deep convection and lightning over the Gulf of Mexico during the period.

 

 

SPoRT LIS Shows Dry Soils During High Plains Blowing Dust Event…

Yesterday while working on some Dust RGB related training materials, I was looking at the RGB in AWIPS and noticed a dust event unfolding in real-time in the central High Plains.  The loop below shows Dust RGB imagery, generated by GOES-East, yesterday, 28 Jan 2019 during the late morning and early afternoon hours.  The loop is centered over NE Colorado and SW Nebraska where you’ll see the blowing dust develop and spread southeastward.  In case you’re not too familiar with this type of imagery, the dust is represented by the magenta colors.  It’s also possible to observe some of the individual dust streaks or plumes within the larger blowing dust event, which help to show their locations of origin.  (By the way, sorry about the loss of image fidelity when saving from AWIPS to an animated GIF).

Image 1.  GOES-East Dust RGB imagery, approx. 1737-2002 UTC, 28 Jan 2019. The blowing dust is defined by the magenta colors, near the center of the imagery.

Research has shown that it takes the right combination of factors to loft dust particles sufficiently to generate these larger scale blowing dust events, partly based on soil moisture and winds.  The SPoRT LIS 0-10 cm volumetric soil moisture (VSM) analysis at 18 UTC indicated very low values in the blowing dust source region, with VSM percentages generally around 12-16% (Image 2).  The METAR observations also indicate sustained winds were 35-40 knots with stronger gusts over 40 knots at one locations in the area.

Image 2. SPoRT LIS volumetric soil moisture (background colors) overlaid with surface METAR plots (yellow figures), valid at 18 UTC, 28 Jan 2019.

This last image is a snapshot of the Dust RGB taken at 1902 UTC, overlaid with surface visibility and ceiling observations.  Notice that at station KHEQ in far northeastern Colorado, a ceiling of 100 ft and visibility of 7 SM was reported, which was likely due to the blowing dust.

Image 3. GOES-East Dust RGB and ceiling and visibility observations from ground observation stations at approximately 19 UTC, 28 Jan 2019.

Some SPoRT collaborative NWS offices in the West CONUS have utilized LIS VSM values to locate areas where the probability of blowing dust events is heightened under the proper conditions.  However, SPoRT is looking into opportunities to better predict where these events will occur.

SPoRT LIS Shows Low Soil Moisture Conditions Near Large N. Cal Fire…

Just making a quick post here as I noticed there were relatively dry soil moisture conditions at the site of a rather large fire that developed quickly in Butte County, CA today.  The first image is the Fire Temperature RGB from the GOES-16 satellite (mesoscale domain sector 1) at 2018 UTC, today, 8 Nov 2018.  In this RGB, the fire can be observed by  colors ranging from near red to near white, just east of Chico, CA.  Notice there are a few white pixels, indicating relatively high emissions from shorter wavelengths (1.61 µm), and thus, relatively hot fire temperatures.

FireTempRGB_2018Z8Nov2018

Meanwhile, soil moisture data from SPoRT’s Land Information System show low soil moisture percentiles (from the 33-year climatology, next image below) at the fire’s location east of Chico.  In fact, these values are  below the 2nd percentile at the fire’s location.

SoilMoisturePercentile_12Z8Nov2018

Lastly, the one year change in deep layer soil moisture values (0-200 cm) also show significant decreases in soil moisture centered at the fire’s location and especially just east over the last year.

OneYearChange_12Z8Nov2018

SPoRT is conducting research and working closely with members of the wildfire community in the western U.S. to transfer these and other data sets for operational decision-makers.

-Kris W.

3D GOES-16/17 Imagery at NWS Huntsville

Yes, you read the title correctly.  We have 3D visible imagery from the GOES-16/17 satellites in the Advanced Weather Interactive Processing System (AWIPS) at the Weather Forecast Office in Huntsville!  So, how did we do this?  I’ll explain.

Several days ago, Kevin McGrath at NASA SPoRT created Facebook and Twitter posts detailing the capability of generating 3D imagery when using both the GOES-16 and GOES-17 satellites in one image.  This is made possible by taking advantage of the slightly different viewing angles by the two satellites in their current GOES East and Center positions.  Yesterday, we explored the possibility of doing this in AWIPS here at the Huntsville WFO and were successful.  I’ll tell you how we did it (which is actually not that difficult), but first I’ll show some 3D imagery from around the Southeast U.S. region this morning.  By the way, to view the imagery in its full 3D glory, you’ll need some standard red/cyan 3D glasses.  Let us also add that the original imagery appears much better in AWIPS as there is always some loss of fidelity when generating images in .gifs and then transferring and viewing these from other platforms.  Anyway, hopefully you’ll get a good sense of the 3D aspects contained within the image loops, and I’ll add it’s better to view with your screen brightness turned up and under darker ambient conditions.

Vis3D_includingHurricaneFlorence_14Sep2018

Image 1. GOES-16/17 3D Visible image loop (0.64 µm), 1307-1442 UTC, 14 Sep 2018

Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of these cloud scenes.  First, here’s a look at Hurricane Florence as it churns along the N. Carolina coast.  You may notice (as we did) that it is much easier to observe the differential motion and distinguish among the various cloud layers in this type of imagery.  Unfortunately, some of the image fidelity is lost when saving as a .gif, as observed particularly in the cirrus cloud layer in the image loop.

Vis3D_zoomHurricaneFlorence_14Sep2018

Image 2. GOES-16/17 3D visible image loop (0.64 µm) of Hurricane Florence, 1317-1452 UTC, 14 Sep 2018

It is rather extraordinary to view developing convection in 3D.  This convective cloud scene in the NW Gulf of Mexico details this capability well (Image 3).

Vis3D_NWGulf_14Sep2018

Image 3. GOES-16/17 3D visible image loop (0.64 µm) centered over the NW Gulf of Mexico, 1317-1452 UTC, 14 Sep 2018

This next cloud scene is not as active, however, it is interesting how one can get a sense of the differences in cloud depth between the fog hugging some of the southern Appalachian valleys and the outer cirrus band extending far west of Hurricane Florence.

Vis3D_fogSouthernAppsAndOuterCirrusBandFlorence_14Sep2018

Image 4. GOES-16/17 3D visible image loop (0.64 µm) centered over the Southern Appalachian region, 1222-1357 UTC, 14 Sep 2018

Lastly, to demonstrate the advantage of this type of imagery, we thought we’d show a simple GOES-16 visible loop (Image 5) compared to a 3D visible loop (Image 6).

GOES16Vis_complexCloudSceneSouthernTX_14Sep2018

Image 5.  GOES-16 Visible image loop (0.64 µm) centered over south TX, 1447-1627 UTC 14 Sep 2018

Vis3D_complexCloudSceneSouthernTX_14Sep2018

Image 6.  GOES-16/17 3D visible image loop (0.64 µm) centered over south TX,

Now, you may notice a lack of “brightness” in the 3D imagery, which is due to the layering process.  But, perhaps you can get a better sense of the complex layered cloud scene over southern portions of TX in the 3D loop as we did.  Of course, as stated previously, there’s generally something lost in translation when moving and viewing graphics between various screens and viewing platforms.

So, now to answer the question…how did we do this?  Well, it was somewhat simple actually.  As you can see in the images, the GOES-17 image is layered on top and GOES-16 on the bottom.  Now, it doesn’t actually matter which satellite image is layered on top.  But, whichever one that is, it will need to be set to 50% transparency.  Then, we modified the color map in AWIPS, applying a pure black to red color curve for the GOES-17 reflectivity values, and black to cyan (or equal contributions of blue and green) for GOES-16.  When doing this initially, we used a simple linear stretch to the color map.  However, we realized a more appropriate methodology utilizes the default non-linear ABI VIS gray scale color map.  So, we simply modified that color map by changing all of the blue and green color values to 0.0, saving this as a new color map and applying this to GOES-17 imagery.  Taking the original color map again, we changed all of the red color values to 0.0 for the GOES-16 imagery.  Voila!  When viewing through the standard red (left eye), cyan (right eye) 3D colored glasses, the left and right eye will see the two GOES images from their respective viewing angles and the imagery appears in 3D.

The lingering question may be…so this is cool and all, but what is the application?  As suggested, this type of imagery does offer a more realistic depiction of the atmosphere and helps to differentiate different cloud layers.  Sure, there are some fantastic RGBs now that can aid in this too.  But, this is another tool in the forecaster toolbox, so to speak.  Additionally, I noticed yesterday and today that it is easier to get a sense of shear in tilted convective updrafts, and when speaking with forecasters at the WFO here, it helps provide them a more thorough and realistic conceptual model of the troposphere.  So, these are some things to consider.  We’ll be exploring more use of this imagery over the coming days/weeks.  The are some caveats to all of this.  First, people with significant red/green color deficiencies may not be able to view the 3D imagery as intended.  Second…we don’t know if this will still work once GOES-17 gets shifted to its eventual GOES-West position later this year.  There may be too great of a difference in the viewing angles.  A quick inspection of GOES-15/16 imagery using this same format seemed to indicate an issue there.  We’ll see.  Anyway, for now, this is a fascinating way to view the visible cloud scene.

-Kris White & Kevin McGrath

Passive Microwave Views of Hurricane Florence…

As Hurricane Florence has developed and flourished in the warm waters of the central and western North Atlantic, the NHC has been using data from microwave sensors aboard polar-orbiting satellites to obtain information about important physical characteristics of the hurricane not otherwise observed by conventional imagery from geostationary satellites.  Not only does the microwave data provide important information about the location, intensity and extent of precipitation bands and deep convection within the hurricane, but can also provide better fixes for the storm center location.  The first image below (Image 1) shows a GOES-16 visible image (~0.64 µm) at approximately 1812 UTC 12 Sep 2018.

Image 1.  GOES-16 Visible Image (~0.64 µm), 1812 UTC 12 Sep 2018

The visible image can be used to ascertain information about some physical characteristics of the hurricane, but the broad canopy of cirrus over much of the hurricane can obscure important, relevant features about banding structures, in particular.  Image 2 shows microwave data (~89 GHz) derived from the AMSR2 sensor at about the same time as the visible image (in Image 1).  Notice that much of the intense banding observed in the microwave data was concentrated along the W to N portions of the hurricane at this time, which might not have been immediately obvious based on the visible imagery alone.  In fact, notice the fairly thin band of convection along the SE side of the eyewall at 1812 UTC.

Image 2. 89 GHz (Horizontal) image from AMSR2, 1812 UTC 12 Sep 2018

Even an inspection of color-enhanced LW IR data/imagery (~10.34 µm) might have suggested a fairly even distribution of deep convection around the eyewall at this time (Image 3).

Image 3.  GOES-16 LW IR image (~10.34 µm), 1812 UTC 12 Sep 2018

However, the 10.34 um will observe cold cirrus cloud tops where present, which may have resulted from earlier convection, and ice crystals that have since been distributed more evenly around the upper-level outflow and not necessarily from recent convection.

Lastly, I thought I’d finish quickly with a loop of the available polar-orbiting passive microwave imagery over Hurricane Florence since early yesterday.  The background color that appears mostly static through the loop is the sea surface temperature data derived from the VIIRS instrument, which is produced by NASA SPoRT and sent to collaborative NWS offices through AWIPS.  Notice the abundance of orange/red colors in the basin through which the hurricane is moving, which is indicative of water temperatures in the mid 80s F (scale not shown).

Image 4. Available polar microwave imagery/data passes over Hurricane Florence since early Sep 11th, background data is sea-surface temperatures derived from the VIIRS instrument

Wet streaks in soil moisture observed in west Texas…

This morning I observed some rather odd looking streaks in the 10.3 µm imagery in western portions of Texas.  Sampling the 10.3 µm data revealed alternating areas of relative warm/cool skin surface temperatures in the cloud free conditions in the area on the upstream side of departing deep convection.  The temperature difference in the skin temperatures were around 5 C at this time.  The 10.3 µm image below was taken from appox. 1357 UTC this morning (3 May 2018).

Image 1.  10.3 um imagery from GOES-16, 1357 UTC 3 May 2018

Arguably, the streaks of lower temperature values showed up better in the 3.9 µm imagery.  Notice the streaks or alternating bands of yellow/orange colors in portions of west Texas.

Image 2.  3.9 um imagery from GOES-16, 1357 UTC 3 May 2018

Realizing these temperature differences were likely due to the recent convective rainfall, I looked up the SPoRT LIS 0-10 cm volumetric soil moisture data, which corresponded nearly perfectly with the streaks of relative lower temperature values (Image 3).  So indeed, this was due to the recent heavy, convective rainfall across the area.

Image 3.  SPoRT LIS 0-10 cm Volumetric Soil Moisture, 15 UTC 3 May 2018