PHS Tornado Parameter

Unfortunately I didn’t look at this PHS Significant Tornado Parameter in real time when warnings were being issued, just completely spaced it.  But went back to see how it fared during the Tornado Warnings, it didn’t do too bad.  The comparison below is from 21z and even though the tornado warning was already issued before the PHS STP was available, it was a nice “confirmation” tool of the Tornado Warning.  The units of the STP were nearly 10 at the time of the strong couplet north of Clifton, WI and it was in the right location at the time of warning.

Figure 1: base reflectivity with ProbSevere Tor Model and warnings in effect.

Figure 2: base velocity animation of the strong couplet over Oakdale or just north of Clifton, WI.

Figure 3: PHS Significant Tornado Parameter at 21z on June 15, 2022. The circle over Clifton is a reference point for the velocity animation from Figure 2.


Can PHS Improve Mesoanalysis and Near Term Convective Forecasts?

A large portion of the MKX CWA was included in a MDT severe risk, so by the start of the operational period, we had to assess the evolving severe threat spreading in from the west. Meanwhile, our DSS event was the Madison Jazz Festival, which entailed a focus specifically on south central Wisconsin. The PHS CAPE forecast appeared to be a noteworthy improvement from the CAPE fields on the SPC Mesoanalysis, along with the short-term forecast on that page.

Below are the 18z through 20z plots of MUCAPE, MUCIN and effective bulk shear from the SPC Mesoanalysis page.

Compare the above images with 4000 J/kg of uncapped MUCAPE to the PHS MUCAPE initialization at 18z and 2-hour forecasts (19z and 20z) below.

As you can see, while the SPC mesoanalysis was indicating 4,000 J/kg of uncapped MUCAPE, the PHS forecast showed CAPE decreasing across central and south central Wisconsin. This was an important and helpful piece of information for our DSS content for the Madison Jazz Festival.

The Day Cloud Phase RGB images below back up the PHS forecast vs the SPC mesoanalysis, as relatively flat Cu field over our area of interest actually dissipated between 20z and 22z.

Based on the PHS forecast combined with satellite analysis, we were able to focus the convective threat for the Madison area toward 6PM and onward, tied to the stronger forcing and better moisture arriving from the west where the ongoing convection resided closer to the cold front. It appears that the PHS sampling of moisture in the column applied to the near-term forecast strongly outperformed the SPC/RAP Mesoanalysis model background and OA algorithm.

Differences between the LightningCast (LC) CONUS and LC Mesos

Note below the CONUS scale (1st image) and Mesos (Meso Sector 2 on 6/15) had a different depiction of the lightning probability over northeast Iowa at 1911z 22Jun15. This was due to the time for a CONUS GOES-East scan to complete, vs. the much shorter time for a Meso sector, which in turn affects the LightningCast model. This is something to keep in mind when using the product.

ProbSevereV3 Trends for Severe Convection in Western/Southwestern Wisconsin

At 2106z, the ARX office had recently issued a Tornado Warning (2102z) for the northern cell with a high % on PSV3 and PTV3, per the noted superior calibration of the updated model vs. the V2. Could the PSV3 and PTV3 trend on this storm have assisted the radar operator in an increased lead time? As you can see below, starting at 2045z, there was a sharp upward trend in the ProbTor, to near 40% prior to 21z. At the least, this tool appears to be an excellent situational awareness tool, and may even be able to help lead time in some cases. It helped us in the MKX CWA regarding downstream warning issuances. In the event of an unexpected radar outage in a sparse radar coverage area, environmental analysis plus satellite interrogation with the utility of PSv3 could support successful radar warning ops in a less than ideal scenario.

– Hurricane84

Situational Awareness and Lead Time with LightningCast and ProbSevere/Tor

Today’s experience landed us in MKX monitoring convective development potential across the western portion of the CWA, with a line of storms ultimately moving in from the west, and some risk of discrete cells persisting even after we ceased the experiment.

I took the opportunity today to set up procedures overlaying PHSnABI indices (CAPE) with satellite imagery (e.g. Day/Cloud Phase or Viz), to see how well it corresponded with convective development. Unfortunately I didn’t grab a screenshot, but it was a nifty display that I hope to use again. PHSnABI suggested that CAPE in some areas of the CWA was not as high as the SPC mesoanalysis or RAP suggested. We tried to investigate this using a combination of NUCAPS and model soundings and RAOB, but couldn’t figure out a reason for the CAPE depression before incoming storms grabbed our attention. Notably, the indices derived only from GOES agreed with PHSnABI about this depression, though we couldn’t figure out if it was correct. It seems likely the GOES ABI was driving the PHSnABI result.

My main takeaway the rest of today is how useful ProbSever, ProbTor, and LightningCast can be with approaching/developing convection.

LightningCast, combined with GLM data, was useful for IDSS imagery to depict position and potential of lightning (example DSS slide using these graphics provided below).  Storms never made it to our decision point prior to leaving the experiment, but lightning threat was usefully communicated to the simulated JazzFest event.

As convection developed, we also practiced relying on probSevere and probTor for lead time in anticipating warnings. The following shows an example where the probTor trends corresponded well with ARX’s actual decision to issue a tornado warning.

SImilarly, intensification of the convective line appeared to be well detected. In fact, depending on what threshold of the probSevere parameters is relied on (probably depends on environment and other factors), the escalating value could have given useful lead time for a severe issuance decision.

Although the main mode appeared to be a line of convection, there were positions along the line where tornado risk seemed to increase (evidenced by radar velocity). It was reassuring to see probTor pick up on the gradually increasing risk of tornadoes as well.

And one final note… lightningCast is fairly impressive in how it produces calibrated estimates of lightning occurrence using only a single time step of satellite imagery (though it uses several bands of the ABI). Naturally lightningCast has difficulty where a developing tower is obscured by an anvil overhead, as we saw in this example. But it was neat to see lightningCast immediately respond with a broader swath of high lightning probabilities the very first time that a tower poked above the anvil that previously obscured it.  The fact that it was hidden probably means lightning could have been occurring below the anvil with lower than ideal lightningCast probabilities (though non-zero, to its credit), but it was neat to see the immediate adjustment to the probability contours with new imagery.

– Buzz Lightyear

The utility of satellite derived data in mesoanalysis & near term convective forecasting

The most common mesoanalysis tool is the SPC (RAP) Mesoanalysis Page

While there was no new convection in the operational period for the RNK CWA, satellite based products did show their utility as a cross check with the SPC Mesoanalysis. Since the SPC Meso-a page starts with a RAP model background field, the ability to QC check this data will be helpful in gauging the accuracy of hourly RAP and HRRR model fields. In this way, you can gauge whether the Mesoanalysis and hourly updating fields are either on track or likely vary in meaningful ways from satellite derived data.   Having this data will be especially useful in locations that do not have frequent or any aircraft vapor soundings.

Mid-level lapse rates

SPC Meso-A 700-500 mb lapse rates at 19z 6/14

NUCAPS 700-500 mb lapse rates at 1819z 6/14

Excluding the likely unreliable data in the region of lingering cloud cover across central Virginia, the NUCAPS data roughly ranged from 6.5C to 7.6C/km across the RNK CWA, which is fairly close to the SPC Meso-A 700-500 mb lapse rates. Within the past few years, maximum 2-6 km AGL lapse rates were added to the SPC Meso-A page. The question I had was, with its good mid-level moisture sampling, would a NUCAPS sounding be a good QC check for the SPC max 2-6 km AGL LR field? Examples are shown below.

SPC Meso-A Max lapse rate (C/km) in 2-6 km AGL layer at 19z 6/14

NUCAPS sounding near Martinsville, VA at 1819z 6/14

As you can see from the SPC mesoanalysis graphic, there was a region of 7.5 C/km to 8.4 C/km maximum lapse rates in the 2-6 km AGL layer. The NUCAPS sounding above sampled a layer of 7.9 C/km lapse rates from just below 700 mb to just below 500 mb, which verifies the SPC Meso-A field.

CAPE analysis

SPC Meso-A SBCAPE and SBCIN at 20z 6/14

SPC Meso-A MLCAPE and MLCIN at 20z 6/14

SPC Meso-A MUCAPE and LPL at 20z 6/14

Here we’ll compare the SPC Meso-A graphics to the PHS initialization at the same hour.

PHS SFC CAPE at 20z 6/14

In general, the CAPE values on the satellite derived initialization is less aggressive the SPC Meso-A SBCAPE, but the distribution is similar, showing a west to east gradient, with lower values east where there remained lingering debris cloud cover. The MLCAPE and MUCAPE fields show a similar west-east gradient in CAPE, while SBCIN and MLCIN are also maximized in the cloud cover area across central VA.

The gridded NUCAPS MAXCAPE field was from the 18z hour per 1819z sounding availability, and was noisier data as would be expected due to unreliable retrievals under thick cloud cover.

Gridded NUCAPS MAXCAPE at 18z 6/14

Excluding the bullseye to the northeast, the distribution on the NUCAPS compares favorably to the SPC Meso-A MUCAPE field. Furthermore, recalling the NUCAPS 1819z sounding near Martinsville, MUCAPE values over that area on the SPC Meso-A field vs. the NUCAPS sounding match up well. While the time difference between the NUCAPS and SPC Meso-A fields is something to take into consideration when using the data, the less than 2-hour difference between them helps in this case. Furthermore, if we were using the NUCAPS data to compare to the SPC Meso-A graphics, we would’ve done a direct 18z check as well.

– Hurricane84

Storm Movement and Severity at TAE

Down in Tallahassee, there are two boundary layers where storms are initiating or ongoing.  There is a lingering MCS that moved down from the Midwest overnight and a Sea Breeze. You can see the CAPE gradients along the both boundaries and how that progresses forward in time with both the boundaries interacting with one another.




This tracks very well when you overlay the visible satellite imagery with the PHS images as you can see the cumulus field along the CAPE gradient. This gives a good visualization of where storms are initiating along the Sea Breeze and the strongest storm movement along the MCS.
As these two boundaries move closer together they will be moving into a more favorable low level environment. It would be nice to have the Polar Orbiting Satellite NUCAPS sounding data available. This way we could verify lapse rates and what Prob Severe is giving us. While an upper level ridge is in place over the southern CONUS what sounding information we did have early on in the forecast period was very helpful as outside of the storm environment skies were clear. I was able to grab some gridded NUCAPS data that shows the diurnal destabilization of the low levels from 18Z. Now that it is 21Z, that data isn’t as helpful in either a warning or pre convective event because things could have changed drastically in the 3 hrs since the last Polar Orbiter moved through.
After overlaying Prob Severe with the PHS CAPE and Visible Satellite imagery, you can see your strongest storms along the CAPE gradient which tracks well. However, there are differences between Prob Severe Version 2 and Version 3.
A great example of the differences between PSv3 and PSv2 is with one of the strongest storms of the day for the Tallahassee CWA. Version 2 seems to try to highlight a hail threat at 48% while Version 3 has prob severe hail at 6%.  It seems that Version 2 is overestimating the Hail threat for this area. Especially given the subpar mid level lapse rates at 5 C/km or less, storm motion of around 5 kts or less and the upper level subsidence. The storm environment just is not conducive to produce quarter sized or larger hail.
– Cirrus Fields

Comparing profiles and instability

For the RNK CWA today, new afternoon convection didn’t materialize, although residual precip and cloud cover exited the eastern CWA to the southeast (blue arrow in KCFX 0.5 Z below from ~19Z) and seem to have left stable air behind.

The corresponding visible satellite for the same time is shown below.



Only the western half of the CWA looked to remain sun-lit, with potential for additional development. Although there wasn’t much forcing, initially the airmass looked unstable, but how unstable was it really?

Looking at the RAP forecast valid at 19Z below (point B corresponds to the KFCX radar location), around 4000 J/kg are forecast.  It’s worth noting, the RAP model did correctly capture the relatively low CAPE to the east, in the stable area where previous precipitation was still exiting.

However, leveraging polar hyper-spectral sounding and ABI combined modifications to a RAP-like model, the following PHSnABI derived CAPE can be compared to the RAP forecast above.

This seems to show a more toned down instability situation relative to the RAP, particularly around our point B.  If correct, this could partly explain the less-than-anticipated convective development.  But the higher resolution data also gives clues to where CAPE remains relatively higher than the surroundings.  In fact, the 19Z visible satellite does appear to show an attempt at cumulus development along the CAPE gradient east of point B… to be fair, the RAP had the same gradient, too.  I didn’t get a chance to overlay visible imagery with the PHSnABI data above today, but it would’ve been interesting to see directly how the cloud fields overlapped.

I didn’t dig deep into why PHSnABI CAPE was lower than the RAP, but the comparison graphics available on Polar/Geo-Satellite Atmospheric Profiles – SSEC ( could hold answers.

Between the plotted differences in both temperature and mixing ratio, the values in central/western Virginia are a bit noisy and hard to generalize… but there do seem to be some reductions particularly in mixing ratio at all three levels (850, 700, and 500 hPa), suggesting RAP might have been too moist. (Zoomed in example below for 850 hPa SAT minus RAP mixing ratio over Virginia, with dark blue indicating -5 g/kg correction )

Now how about soundings? Looking at a special ~19Z (or 18Z?) sounding from KRNK, a colocated RAP model sounding (at point B) also at 19Z, and a NUCAPS sounding around the same point and time, we can compare the temperature and moisture profiles.

Overall, temperature profiles appear decent for all three. It’s primarily moisture which seems to differ, with the RAP being the most moisture-rich in both boundary layer and in a layer centered around 600 mb (note a ~1.64 PWAT from the RAP sounding). The NUCAPS has less low level and mid-level moisture overall, and a PWAT of 1.45. Despite the NUCAPS’ smoothed profile, if NUCAPS is supposed to have skill at retrieving mid-level moisture profiles, perhaps this is useful information. Finally, in the actual RAOB, a very high moisture observation at the surface may have caused the computed SB CAPE to be quite high… however, the low-level moisture as a whole arguably matches the NUCAPS sounding a bit better. The mixed layer CAPE in fact matches better between the RAOB and NUCAPS soundings, and so does the overall PWAT.

Buzz Lightyear

Difference in Instability in NUCAPS and PHS

We noticed some large differences in SBCAPE values between the NUCAPS data and the PSH over the Raleigh CWA. NUCAPS had values of over 4000 J/Kg over a large area just to the south of Raleigh with PHS indicating values of less than 1000 J/Kg over the entire domain. Looking at surface observations, the surface dewpoints from NUCAPS may be slightly higher and did modify the boundary layer in the soundings below. This modification yielded values closer to 1500-2000 J/Kg. The modified soundings also introduced some capping to the sounding as well. Included the visible satellite imagery to show the lack of cumulus development in the area to the south of Raleigh.

Gridded NUCAPS CAPE 18z

PHS CAPE at 20z.

The point selected with the nearest ob used for images below:

Original NUCAPS Sounding

Original Modified NUCAPS

Modified NUCAPS Modified Sounding for nearest observation point (90°F/70°F)


Metwatch for Wilmington DSS event

Metwatch for Wilmington NC started with modified NUCAPS soundings and a comparison with NAM BUFKIT profiles:

Looking at 700mb temperatures, BUFKIT has about 8C for that layer, and here is the gridded NUCAPS 700mb temperature layer. Note: not a lot of advection noted at 700mb, with low level dry advection (not shown)

Watching this cell just outside the CWA pulse and then fall apart…PWV3 never exceeds 4% with this pulse. LightingCast also showed a rapid drop in probabilities.

Not much happened today, but just along the coast was this little area of enhanced CAPE (3000j/kg)…so you’re saying there’s a chance…

Comparison between parallax corrected and uncorrected lightning cast. You can see the image above and to the right (corrected) has some higher percentages getting into the 20 mi range ring compared to the non corrected data which just has the 25% grazing the 20 mi range ring. Having the corrected data could be more beneficial to providing DSS support.

– Mr. Bean

– Noctilucent

LBF HWT Blog Day 4

We didn’t have too many storms occur during operations today, but that allowed us to be able to focus more on CI.

LightningCast for CI

Was able to use LightningCast for convective initiation today as LBF was waiting for storms to fire back up for the afternoon and evening. Initially we were thinking storms would form first over the southern portion of the CWA based off of modeled convective parameters but at 2101Z, a 25% chance of lightning popped up via LC for the north-central portion of the forecast area. This 25% contour appeared a few minutes before radar reflectivity started showing up for the same area. Seeing even the 10% contour show up earlier on, clued me into the fact that we needed to shift our focus further north than we originally thought. These storms seemed to be forming along a shear gradient and weak boundary.
Of note, I am using the parallax corrected LC.
LC, GLM FED, and DCPD at 2100Z
LBF radar at 2109Z
By 2116Z, both GLM and ENTLN showed the first flash of lightning, allowing for around 15 minutes of lead time off of the 25% contour.
For comparison, these storms were forming ahead of the highest PHS CAPE and ahead of any of its stronger gradients.
As our day was winding down, LC continued to indicate areas to watch before it showed up on radar, but I did not grab additional images.


Tried to compare NUCAPS soundings today as we did have an overlap, but unfortunately ran into technical issues within my CAVE so was not able to do much with it. Another limiting factor was that the only “green” soundings from Aqua within our CWA fell within the far western scans which we were told by one of the developers they would next expect good data from, being on the limb. But for comparison, here are Aqua (1911Z) and NOAA-20 (1953Z) sounding from points NW of North Platte.
Points selected were both NW of the town of North Platte, circled below. The NE point of the two is Aqua and SW point is NOAA-20
– Matador

Differences in Prob Severe v2 vs v3

Some significant differences in probabilities for v2 vs v3. Noted on this storm in northern New Mexico. Not quite sure the reasoning for this large discrepancy.

Storm ID: 346478 in Northern New Mexico June 9, 2022.

Notable Differences in ProbSevere in the time series.

Storms going up right along forecasted boundary from PHS CAPE

Storms developing in Prowers County in southeastern Colorado.

– David Spritz