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


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.

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:

Total Lightning and IDSS in Stratiform Precipitation

A methane explosion occurred last Friday, January 20, in rural northwest Alabama (story from WAFF-TV).  NWS Huntsville provided decision support services to the incident, which posed significant risks to emergency personnel.  The active pattern last weekend created additional concerns, since several rounds of rain and thunderstorms were forecast to move across the area (though fortunately the significant severe weather from that weekend remained well to the south).

One such event arrived Saturday morning as stratiform rain pushed back into the area. Forecasters noted that there were indications of cloud-to-ground lightning from the National Lightning Detection Network along the leading edge of the rainfall, so we leveraged flash extent density data from the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array to investigate further.  Strangely, when loaded as an image in AWIPS-2, this showed little.

It took some time to discover why.  The flash rates were so low (1 flash per ‘scan’) that the FED image interpolation was smoothing the data below what the color curve could visualize.  After the interpolation was turned off or the color curve edited again, the flashes were much more apparent, as seen in the following GIF loop from AWIPS.


A loop of Multi-Radar/Multi-Sensor radar imagery from 1144 UTC to 1222 UTC, 21 January 2017, with flash extent density data from the North Alabama Lightning Mapping Array overlaid in white.  The methane incident is denoted by the yellow dot in northwest Alabama, and a 10-mile range ring is indicated by the yellow circle.

Adding the full flash extent density information from the NALMA helped the forecasters to visualize the lightning threat beyond what was otherwise available in AWIPS.  This helped when it came time to brief emergency personnel on the approaching threat.

This event also helps to reinforce the potential utility of the Geostationary Lightning Mapper (GLM) aboard GOES-16 as it becomes available this spring.  However, forecasters will have to visualize the GLM data wisely.  It will likely more important to view low flash rates for an IDSS or safety mindset, versus higher flash rate changes for severe weather.  Even with total lightning, context is everything.

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)

SPoRT Participates at the Operations Proving Ground

Last year, NASA SPoRT submitted a proposal to collaborate with the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.  The effort is focused on evaluating the Meteogram Moving Trace Tool developed by the Meteorological Development Laboratory (MDL) with support from NASA SPoRT to include total lightning.  One of the top requests from forecasters has been to create a time series plot of total lightning in real-time.  SPoRT first began to develop the total lightning tracking tool for use in AWIPS II to use with total lightning observations from the ground-based lightning mapping arrays.  The effort has now expanded to SPoRT coordinating with MDL’s meteogram tool for AWIPS II.  The advantage of the MDL tool is that it can create time series trends for multiple data sets beyond total lightning (e.g., radar, satellite, models).

This week, the Operations Proving Ground has brought together forecasters, developers, and trainers from multiple organizations to evaluate the use of this tool in several scenarios.  The opportunity for face-to-face discussions, training, and evaluation has been invaluable for the MDL and SPoRT developers to assess how the tool may be used in operations and to fix bugs that are found.  The face-to-face nature has allowed for bugs or requests for new features to be addressed throughout the day and to test the fixes the following day.  The week long evaluation facilitated by the Operations Proving Ground will lead to several improvements to the meteogram trace tool in preparation for its deployment in AWIPS II later this year.

Forecasters evaluating the meteogram trace tool at the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.

Forecasters evaluating the meteogram trace tool at the Operations Proving Ground in Kansas City, Missouri.

MODIS Perspective on the Mid-South Snow in AWIPS II

The Huntsville County Warning Area received widespread 3-5 inch snowfalls Wednesday night, with a few sites reporting as high as 10 inches!  While it’s melting quickly today with temperatures in the mid and upper 30s, the snow cover did hang around long enough to be captured by the mid-morning MODIS pass (though we are on the very edge of the pass, so the bowtie distortions are noticeable).  That might be nothing new, but this is the first time we’ve been able to view such imagery in AWIPS II.

MODIS Snow/Cloud RGB Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014

MODIS Snow/Cloud RGB Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014

MODIS True Color Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014, viewed in AWIPS II CAVE

MODIS True Color Image valid 1546 UTC 13 February 2014, viewed in AWIPS II CAVE

The Snow-Cloud RGB is particularly illuminating, as it effectively illustrates the downslope-induced cloud breaks over northern Georgia.

Great job to the SPoRT AWIPS II team on helping us get these data back into AWIPS!  There are still some kinks to work out, but this essentially restores the SPoRT data feed that was in place before our A2 upgrade in June 2012.