Nighttime view of inflow feeder clouds from GOES Nighttime Microphysics RGB

During the overnight hours of March 18-19, 2020, there were numerous reports of severe weather (including tornadoes) in north Texas:

This blog entry will focus on the storm repsonsible for the tornado reports between 0615 – 0650 UTC near Abilene, TX.

The storm of interest can be viewed in this 4-panel display zoomed in to the storm near Abilene, TX:

Upper-left: GOES-16 Nighttime Microphysics RGB

Upper-right: GOES-16 IR (10.3 micron) band with default color table

Lower-left: GOES-16 Flash Extent Density grid (1 minute update)

Lower-right: MRMS 0.5 km MSL composite reflectivity

Note the clouds that develop east of Abilene that are circled here:

The clouds are bands oriented parallel to the low-level wind direction and exist in the converging inflow region of the storm.  These are inflow feeder clouds – see this schematic which depicts where they are typically found (to the right of the flanking line in this diagram) and some examples to illustrate how they may appear in visible imagery:

Since the resolution of the IR bands more coarse than that of visible bands, it’s typically more difficult to identify storm scale features seen from satellite at night such as inflow feeder clouds.  In this case, they are not obscured by anvil cirrus and can be seen, albeit not as clearly as they typically appear with visible imagery analysis during daytime.

Let’s zoom in to view a larger perspective of the nighttime microphysics RGB:

Note that a mesoscale domain sector was available at this time, providing 1-minute imagery that was likely crucial for detecting inflow feeder clouds.  How does this compare with other bands and products?

First, the IR imagery with the default color enhancement:

A different color table applied to the same imagery:

and the fog product:

The nighttime microphysics product appears to offer the most unambiguous view of the inflow feeder clouds at night.


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Fall 2019 through Winter 2020 Heavy Precipitation Events

By Sheldon Kusselson

Posted in Heavy Rain and Flooding Issues | Comments Off on Fall 2019 through Winter 2020 Heavy Precipitation Events

CIRA Snow/Cloud Layer Product & VIIRS observations of the 12 Feb 2020 Blowing Snow Event

By Ed Szoke and Jorel Torres

On 12 Feb 2020 a strong cold front pushed southward across the Northern Plains and Midwest bringing dramatically colder temperatures and howling northerly winds, creating widespread blowing snow and blizzard conditions during the daytime hours of 12 Feb.  While dramatic, such conditions are not unusual for the Northern Plains, where forecasters have noticed that such widespread blowing snow actually appears in GOES-16/17 in some of the bands and RGB products.  For this case there are two excellent blogs out there on this event: one from Carl Jones of the Grand Forks, North Dakota WFO at , the other by Scott Bachmeier of CIMSS at

Here we add to their excellent insight with a look at a couple of other satellite products.  One is the CIRA Snow/Cloud Layer Product, an RGB product that discriminates snow from clouds, but unlike other RGBs the snow appears as white.

Here is a loop of the CIRA Snow/Cloud Layer Product along with a zoomed-in loop of the blowing snow by the Day Snow-Fog RGB from 15-21Z, on 12 Feb 2020.

Here is a METAR time series for Grand Forks, ND.  The cold front comes by in the early hours of 12 Feb followed by a period of light snow and howling northerly winds.  By daybreak the clouds had cleared with visibilities quite low in the widespread blowing snow.

Corresponding animation of surface observations, from 15-21Z, 12 Feb 2020, can be seen below as well.

As noted in the two blogs referenced earlier, we are likely able to see the blowing snow from the snow cover because the blowing snow has smaller sized crystals with different reflectance properties, making it appear differently from the underlying snow in Band 5, which contributes to the two RGB products previously shown.

In addition to the high temporal refresh rate from GOES imagery, polar-orbiting satellites from JPSS can provide observations of surface features at high spatial resolution, in this case, blowing snow. Polar-orbiting satellites, SNPP and NOAA-20 contain the VIIRS instrument, comprising 22 spectral channels that exhibit 375-m and 750-m spatial resolutions.

The 1.6µm channel from NOAA-20 VIIRS (I-3) and the GOES 1.6µm (Band 5, previously mentioned above) are known for discriminating cloud phase: liquid water clouds (reflect at 1.6µm) versus ice clouds (absorb at 1.6µm). The 1.6µm spectral channel can also provide land/water contrast in the imagery, depict snow cover (i.e. black colors, since snow absorbs rather than reflects at 1.6µm) and observe blowing snow (i.e. greyish-white colors exhibiting varying reflective properties compared to snow cover).The main difference between GOES 1.6µm and NOAA-20 VIIRS 1.6µm is the spatial resolution: 1-km compared to 375-m, respectively. NOAA-20 VIIRS imagery, below, observes blowing snow at 1815Z, 12 Feb 2020.

Although polar-orbiters have a coarser temporal resolution compared to GOES, there were three polar-orbiting overpasses that observed the blowing snow event; 2 from NOAA-20, and 1 from SNPP. See video below; notice how blowing snow moves to the south throughout the animation. Observations were taken between 1815Z-1951Z, 12 Feb 2020.


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Advected Layer Precipitable Water (ALPW) product for 5 February 2020 Severe and Flood event

Posted in Heavy Rain and Flooding Issues, POES, Severe Weather | Comments Off on Advected Layer Precipitable Water (ALPW) product for 5 February 2020 Severe and Flood event

Thin fog over snow in southwest Kansas – 29 January 2020

A snow event in southwest Kansas on 28/29 January 2020 led to widespread snow amounts of 4 to 8 inches, with locally higher amounts (above 12″).  On the 29th, a thin layer of fog developed over the snow covered land.  Inspect the GOES-16 imagery:

Upper left: Visible (0.64 micron) band

Upper right: CIRA Snow Cloud Layers RGB

Lower left: Day Snow Fog RGB

Lower right: Day Cloud Phase Distinction RGB

In the visible imagery, the fog is undetectable due to the lack of contrast (the snow cover and fog are the same color).

In the CIRA Snow Cloud Layers RGB, snow cover is white while  low-cloud/fog is yellowish-green.  Note how we can see through the fog since it is thin, the snow cover on the ground can be seen.

In the Day Snow Fog RGB, snow cover is red, low clouds / fog are light purple.  The transparency in this product is less than the previous RGB so that the snow cover under the fog is somewhat more subtle.

In the Day Cloud Phase Distinction RGB, snow cover is green, low-cloud/fog is cyan and there is sufficient transparency to view the snow cover under the thin fog.

The key takeaway point is to make use of RGB products to discern fog from snow cover, the visible imagery alone makes it much more challenging to make this discrimination.

As an example of data fusion, note this tweet from the NWS WFO in Dodge City which confirms the fog via web-cams:


Posted in Fog | Comments Off on Thin fog over snow in southwest Kansas – 29 January 2020