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Kristopher M. Bedka and Konstantin Khlopenkov

Abstract

Deep convective updrafts often penetrate through the surrounding cirrus anvil and into the lower stratosphere. Cross-tropopause transport of ice, water vapor, and chemicals occurs within these “overshooting tops” (OTs) along with a variety of hazardous weather conditions. OTs are readily apparent in satellite imagery, and, given the importance of OTs for weather and climate, a number of automated satellite-based detection methods have been developed. Some of these methods have proven to be relatively reliable, and their products are used in diverse Earth science applications. Nevertheless, analysis of these methods and feedback from product users indicate that use of fixed infrared temperature–based detection criteria often induces biases that can limit their utility for weather and climate analysis. This paper describes a new multispectral OT detection approach that improves upon those previously developed by minimizing use of fixed criteria and incorporating pattern recognition analyses to arrive at an OT probability product. The product is developed and validated using OT and non-OT anvil regions identified by a human within MODIS imagery. The product offered high skill for discriminating between OTs and anvils and matched 69% of human OT identifications for a particular probability threshold with a false-detection rate of 18%, outperforming previously existing methods. The false-detection rate drops to 1% when OT-induced texture detected within visible imagery is used to constrain the IR-based OT probability product. The OT probability product is also shown to improve severe-storm detection over the United States by 20% relative to the best existing method.

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Christopher S. Velden and Kristopher M. Bedka

Abstract

This study investigates the assignment of pressure heights to satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs), commonly known as cloud-drift and water vapor–motion winds. Large volumes of multispectral AMV datasets are compared with collocated rawinsonde wind profiles collected by the U.S. Department of Energy Atmospheric Radiation Measurement Program at three geographically disparate sites: the southern Great Plains, the North Slope of Alaska, and the tropical western Pacific Ocean. From a careful analysis of these comparisons, the authors estimate that mean AMV observation errors are ∼5–5.5 m s−1 and that vector height assignment is the dominant factor in AMV uncertainty, contributing up to 70% of the error. These comparisons also reveal that in most cases the RMS differences between matched AMVs and rawinsonde wind values are minimized if the rawinsonde values are averaged over specified layers. In other words, on average, the AMV values better correlate to a motion over a mean tropospheric layer rather than to a traditionally assigned discrete level. The height assignment behavioral characteristics are specifically identified according to AMV height (high cloud vs low cloud), type (spectral bands; clear vs cloudy), geolocation, height assignment method, and amount of environmental vertical wind shear present. The findings have potentially important implications for data assimilation of AMVs, and these are discussed.

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John R. Mecikalski and Kristopher M. Bedka

Abstract

This study identifies the precursor signals of convective initiation within sequences of 1-km-resolution visible (VIS) and 4–8-km infrared (IR) imagery from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) instrument. Convective initiation (CI) is defined for this study as the first detection of Weather Surveillance Radar-1988 Doppler (WSR-88D) reflectivities ≥35 dBZ produced by convective clouds. Results indicate that CI may be forecasted ∼30–45 min in advance through the monitoring of key IR fields for convective clouds. This is made possible by the coincident use of three components of GOES data: 1) a cumulus cloud “mask” at 1-km resolution using VIS and IR data, 2) satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) for tracking individual cumulus clouds, and 3) IR brightness temperature (TB) and multispectral band-differencing time trends. In effect, these techniques isolate only the cumulus convection in satellite imagery, track moving cumulus convection, and evaluate various IR cloud properties in time. Convective initiation is predicted by accumulating information within a satellite pixel that is attributed to the first occurrence of a ≥35 dBZ radar echo. Through the incorporation of satellite tracking of moving cumulus clouds, this work represents a significant advance in the use of routinely available GOES data for monitoring aspects of cumulus clouds important for nowcasting CI (0–1-h forecasts). Once cumulus cloud tracking is established, eight predictor fields based on Lagrangian trends in IR data are used to characterize cloud conditions consistent with CI. Cumulus cloud pixels for which ≥7 of the 8 CI indicators are satisfied are labeled as having high CI potential, assuming an extrapolation of past trends into the future. Comparison to future WSR-88D imagery then measures the method's predictive skill. Convective initiation predictability is demonstrated using several convective events—one during IHOP_2002—that occur over a variety of synoptic and mesoscale forcing regimes.

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Kristopher M. Bedka and John R. Mecikalski

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This study demonstrates methods to obtain high-density, satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMV) that contain both synoptic-scale and mesoscale flow components associated with and induced by cumuliform clouds through adjustments made to the University of Wisconsin—Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (UW-CIMSS) AMV processing algorithm. Operational AMV processing is geared toward the identification of synoptic-scale motions in geostrophic balance, which are useful in data assimilation applications. AMVs identified in the vicinity of deep convection are often rejected by quality-control checks used in the production of operational AMV datasets. Few users of these data have considered the use of AMVs with ageostrophic flow components, which often fail checks that assure both spatial coherence between neighboring AMVs and a strong correlation to an NWP-model first-guess wind field. The UW-CIMSS algorithm identifies coherent cloud and water vapor features (i.e., targets) that can be tracked within a sequence of geostationary visible (VIS) and infrared (IR) imagery. AMVs are derived through the combined use of satellite feature tracking and an NWP-model first guess. Reducing the impact of the NWP-model first guess on the final AMV field, in addition to adjusting the target selection and vector-editing schemes, is found to result in greater than a 20-fold increase in the number of AMVs obtained from the UW-CIMSS algorithm for one convective storm case examined here. Over a three-image sequence of Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-12 VIS and IR data, 3516 AMVs are obtained, most of which contain flow components that deviate considerably from geostrophy. In comparison, 152 AMVs are derived when a tighter NWP-model constraint and no targeting adjustments were imposed, similar to settings used with operational AMV production algorithms. A detailed analysis reveals that many of these 3516 vectors contain low-level (100–70 kPa) convergent and midlevel (70–40 kPa) to upper-level (40–10 kPa) divergent motion components consistent with localized mesoscale flow patterns. The applicability of AMVs for estimating cloud-top cooling rates at the 1-km pixel scale is demonstrated with excellent correspondence to rates identified by a human expert.

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Sarah M. Griffin, Kristopher M. Bedka, and Christopher S. Velden

Abstract

Assigning accurate heights to convective cloud tops that penetrate into the upper troposphere–lower stratosphere (UTLS) region using infrared (IR) satellite imagery has been an unresolved issue for the satellite research community. The height assignment for the tops of optically thick clouds is typically accomplished by matching the observed IR brightness temperature (BT) with a collocated rawinsonde or numerical weather prediction (NWP) profile. However, “overshooting tops” (OTs) are typically colder (in BT) than any vertical level in the associated profile, leaving the height of these tops undetermined using this standard approach. A new method is described here for calculating the heights of convectively driven OTs using the characteristic temperature lapse rate of the cloud top as it ascends into the UTLS region. Using 108 MODIS-identified OT events that are directly observed by the CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar (CPR), the MODIS-derived brightness temperature difference (BTD) between the OT and anvil regions can be defined. This BTD is combined with the CPR- and NWP-derived height difference between these two regions to determine the mean lapse rate, −7.34 K km−1, for the 108 events. The anvil height is typically well known, and an automated OT detection algorithm is used to derive BTD, so the lapse rate allows a height to be calculated for any detected OT. An empirical fit between MODIS and geostationary imager IR BT for OTs and anvil regions was performed to enable application of this method to coarser-spatial-resolution geostationary data. Validation indicates that ~75% (65%) of MODIS (geostationary) OT heights are within ±500 m of the coincident CPR-estimated heights.

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Cameron R. Homeyer, Joel D. McAuliffe, and Kristopher M. Bedka

Abstract

Expansive cirrus clouds present above the anvils of extratropical convection have been observed in satellite and aircraft-based imagery for several decades. Despite knowledge of their occurrence, the precise mechanisms and atmospheric conditions leading to their formation and maintenance are not entirely known. Here, the formation of these cirrus “plumes” is examined using a combination of satellite imagery, four-dimensional ground-based radar observations, assimilated atmospheric states from a state-of-the-art reanalysis, and idealized numerical simulations with explicitly resolved convection. Using data from 20 recent events (2013–present), it is found that convective cores of storms with above-anvil cirrus plumes reach altitudes 1–6 km above the tropopause. Thus, it is likely that these clouds represent the injection of cloud material into the lower stratosphere. Comparison of storms with above-anvil cirrus plumes and observed tropopause-penetrating convection without plumes reveals an association with large vector differences between the motion of a storm and the environmental wind in the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere (UTLS), suggesting that gravity wave breaking and/or stretching of the tropopause-penetrating cloud are/is more prevalent in plume-producing storms. A weak relationship is found between plume occurrence and the stability of the lower stratosphere (or tropopause structure), and no relationship is found with the duration of stratospheric penetration or stratospheric humidity. Idealized model simulations of tropopause-penetrating convection with small and large magnitudes of storm-relative wind in the UTLS are found to reproduce the observationally established storm-relative wind relationship and show that frequent gravity wave breaking is the primary mechanism responsible for plume formation.

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Kristopher M. Bedka, Richard Dworak, Jason Brunner, and Wayne Feltz

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Two satellite infrared-based overshooting convective cloud-top (OT) detection methods have recently been described in the literature: 1) the 11-μm infrared window channel texture (IRW texture) method, which uses IRW channel brightness temperature (BT) spatial gradients and thresholds, and 2) the water vapor minus IRW BT difference (WV-IRW BTD). While both methods show good performance in published case study examples, it is important to quantitatively validate these methods relative to overshooting top events across the globe. Unfortunately, no overshooting top database currently exists that could be used in such study. This study examines National Aeronautics and Space Administration CloudSat Cloud Profiling Radar data to develop an OT detection validation database that is used to evaluate the IRW-texture and WV-IRW BTD OT detection methods. CloudSat data were manually examined over a 1.5-yr period to identify cases in which the cloud top penetrates above the tropopause height defined by a numerical weather prediction model and the surrounding cirrus anvil cloud top, producing 111 confirmed overshooting top events. When applied to Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)-based Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) Advanced Baseline Imager proxy data, the IRW-texture (WV-IRW BTD) method offered a 76% (96%) probability of OT detection (POD) and 16% (81%) false-alarm ratio. Case study examples show that WV-IRW BTD > 0 K identifies much of the deep convective cloud top, while the IRW-texture method focuses only on regions with a spatial scale near that of commonly observed OTs. The POD decreases by 20% when IRW-texture is applied to current geostationary imager data, highlighting the importance of imager spatial resolution for observing and detecting OT regions.

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John R. Mecikalski, Kristopher M. Bedka, Simon J. Paech, and Leslie A. Litten

Abstract

The goal of this project is to validate and extend a study by Mecikalski and Bedka that capitalized on information the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) instruments provide for nowcasting (i.e., 0–1-h forecasting) convective initiation through the real-time monitoring of cloud-top properties for moving cumuli. Convective initiation (CI) is defined as the first occurrence of a ≥35-dBZ radar echo from a cumuliform cloud. Mecikalski and Bedka’s study concluded that eight infrared GOES-based “interest fields” of growing cumulus clouds should be monitored over 15–30-min intervals toward predicting CI: the transition of cloud-top brightness temperature to below 0°C, cloud-top cooling rates, and instantaneous and time trends of channel differences 6.5–10.7 and 13.3–10.7 μm. The study results are as follows: 1) measures of accuracy and uncertainty of Mecikalski and Bedka’s algorithm via commonly used skill scoring procedures, and 2) a report on the relative importance of each interest field to nowcasting CI using GOES. It is found that for nonpropagating convective events, the skill scores are dependent on which CI interest fields are considered per pixel and are optimized when three–four fields are met for a given 1-km GOES pixel in terms of probability of detection, and threat and Heidke skill scores. The lowest false-alarm rates are found when one field is used: that associated with cloud-top glaciation 30 min prior to CI. Subsequent recommendations for future research toward improving Mecikalski and Bedka’s study are suggested especially with regard to constraining CI nowcasts when inhibiting factors are present (e.g., capping inversions).

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Kristopher M. Bedka, Cecilia Wang, Ryan Rogers, Lawrence D. Carey, Wayne Feltz, and Jan Kanak

Abstract

The Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-14 (GOES-14) Imager operated in 1-min Super Rapid Scan Operations for GOES-R (SRSOR) mode during summer and fall of 2012 to emulate the high temporal resolution sampling of the GOES-R Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). The current GOES operational scan interval is 15–30 min, which is too coarse to capture details important for severe convective storm forecasting including 1) when indicators of a severe storm such as rapid cloud-top cooling, overshooting tops, and above-anvil cirrus plumes first appear; 2) how satellite-observed cloud tops truly evolve over time; and 3) how satellite cloud-top observations compare with radar and lightning observations at high temporal resolution. In this paper, SRSOR data, radar, and lightning observations are used to analyze five convective storms, four of which were severe, to address these uncertainties. GOES cloud-top cooling, increased lightning flash rates, and peak precipitation echo tops often preceded severe weather, signaling rapid intensification of the storm updraft. Near the time of several severe hail or damaging wind events, GOES cloud-top temperatures and radar echo tops were warming rapidly, which indicated variability in the storm updraft that could have allowed the hail and wind gusts to reach the surface. Above-anvil cirrus plumes were another prominent indicator of impending severe weather. Detailed analysis of storms throughout the 2012 SRSOR period indicates that 57% of the plume-producing storms were severe and 85% of plumes from severe storms appeared before a severe weather report with an average lead time of 18 min, 9 min earlier than what would be observed by GOES operational scanning.

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Kristopher M. Bedka, Christopher S. Velden, Ralph A. Petersen, Wayne F. Feltz, and John R. Mecikalski

Abstract

Geostationary satellite-derived atmospheric motion vectors (AMVs) have been used over several decades in a wide variety of meteorological applications. The ever-increasing horizontal and vertical resolution of numerical weather prediction models puts a greater demand on satellite-derived wind products to monitor flow accurately at smaller scales and higher temporal resolution. The focus of this paper is to evaluate the accuracy and potential applications of a newly developed experimental mesoscale AMV product derived from Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) imagery. The mesoscale AMV product is derived through a variant on processing methods used within the University of Wisconsin—Madison Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (UW-CIMSS) AMV algorithm and features a significant increase in vector density throughout the troposphere and lower stratosphere over current NOAA/National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS) processing methods for GOES-12 Imager data. The primary objectives of this paper are to 1) highlight applications of experimental GOES mesoscale AMVs toward weather diagnosis and forecasting, 2) compare the coverage and accuracy of mesoscale AMVs with the NOAA/NESDIS operational AMV product, and 3) demonstrate the utility of 6-min NOAA Wind Profiler Network observations for satellite-derived AMV validation. Although the more conservative NOAA/NESDIS AMV product exhibits closer statistical agreement to rawinsonde and wind profiler observations than do the experimental mesoscale AMVs, a comparison of these two products for selected events shows that the mesoscale product better depicts the circulation center of a midlatitude cyclone, boundary layer confluence patterns, and a narrow low-level jet that is well correlated with subsequent severe thunderstorm development. Thus, while the individual experimental mesoscale AMVs may sacrifice some absolute accuracy, they show promise in providing greater temporal and spatial flow detail that can benefit diagnosis of upper-air flow patterns in near–real time. The results also show good agreement between 6-min wind profiler and rawinsonde observations within the 700–200-hPa layer, with larger differences in the stratosphere, near the mean top of the planetary boundary layer, and just above the earth’s surface. Despite these larger differences within select layers, the stability of the difference profile with height builds confidence in the use of 6-min, ∼404-MHz NOAA Wind Profiler Network observations to evaluate and better understand satellite AMV error characteristics.

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