VIIRS observations of Katabatic Winds from the Transcontinental Mountain Range Adjacent to the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica

By Lewis Grasso and Jorel Torres

One of the goals of the JPSS program set forth by NOAA is enhanced monitoring of the Earth’s environment. One specific type of event of the Earth’s environment that was captured by VIIRS on-board not only the operational NOAA-20 satellite platform, but also the demonstration S-NPP satellite platform was katabatic winds. Katabatic winds that flow through the glacial canyons of the Transcontinental Mountain Range represent a wind regime that transports some of the coldest surface air off the Antarctic ice sheet to the Ross Ice Shelf.

In the figure below a few key features are annotated. The glacial canyons where the katabatic winds flow along the Ross Ice Shelf are denoted. Furthermore, McMurdo research facility is also annotated. As a side note, McMurdo is one of the locations where VIIRS data is downloaded; Svalbard, Norway is the second location. Annotations in the figure are superimposed on top of Imagery Band (I-5, 11.45um), which has a 375-m sub-satellite footprint.

VIIRS offers high-resolution imagery as a means to monitor local-environments, however still images may limit interpretation of the imagery. The following sets of animations provide a GOES-16/17 ABI-like loops from combination of both S-NPP and NOAA-20 VIIRS instruments.

Animation 1: 29 April 2019  (click following link)

Animation 2: 2 May 2019  (click following link)

Animation 3: 3 May 2019  (click following link)


For the interested reader here are some references.

The entire February 2003 MWR Volume One article is the following: Antarctic Satellite Meteorology: Applications for Weather Forecasting.<0371:ASMAFW>2.0.CO;2

Besides the February 2003 MWR Volume, we offer the following articles.

A Strong Wind Event on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica: A Case Study of Scale Interactions

Circumpolar Mapping of Antarctic Coastal Polynyas and Landfast Sea Ice: Relationship and Variability

Insight into the Thermodynamic Structure of Blowing-Snow Layers in Antarctica from Dropsonde and CALIPSO Measurements

Numerical Prediction of an Antarctic Severe Wind Event with the Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) Model 

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