Noticed an across the board temperature discrepancy between the Observed Sounding at KJAX and two of the NUCAPS soundings from the afternoon pass of NOAA-20. Looked at two different NUCAPS soundings which straddled KJAX. The morning sounding at KJAX (12Z) showed a typical morning, warm tropical but capped sounding. The two NUCAPS soundings were from six hours later showed a surface change that would be expected but then showed decent cooling from the morning through the entire column. The image below shows the two NUCAPS soundings, one is in focus (red/green), the second NUCAPS soundings is the drab color and the observed sounding is in blue. This shows the two NUCAPS soundings to be very similar and follow each other well but are also a few to several degrees cooler than the observed sounding.
While I would expect some areas of the column to cool with a sea breeze front coming through, but not the entire column. When I see this type of discrepancy, it makes me not want to trust the NUCAPS sounding in this case as it does not seem to make much sense with the ground truth of the actual measured RAOB. Of note, when the NUCAPS sounding was taken, the line of sight was free of clouds and the “dots” were green; however, there were thunderstorms to the north and west of KJAX and they had an outflow boundary approaching the area rapidly. Could this have made a difference? I don’t know but it is worth noting this did occur. Also, we also noted the NUCAPS soundings for this area were all cold in comparison to the morning RAOB. Looking further west to KTLH, the NUCAPS soundings and the observed soundings looked much closer and made a lot more sense. So, could this be a marine layer influence? Could this be just a bad batch? Could this be a bad thermometer and wet bulb sensor on the actual RAOB? All valid questions that I can’t answer but put here as possibilities that can’t be verified.
Of note, we also looked at the differences between the KSC 15Z sounding and the afternoon and the afternoon pass of the NOAA-20 NUCAPS soundings. These two were much closer and seemed to be much closer together. Also note, the time difference between the two soundings is only 3 hours in comparison to six. The image below is the KSC sounding comparison. The sounding in focus is the actual KSC RAOB and the NUCAPS sounding is in the background.
A moderate risk of severe storms capable of producing large hail, damaging wind gusts and tornadoes occurred across the Dakotas. My focus was in the Bismarck, ND CWA where storms were likely initiating in eastern MT and then moving into the very unstable environment across western ND. All of the higher resolution models were a bit late on storm initiation as storms began to fire between 3-4 PM CT. The experiment began around 2 PM CT, which allowed for mesoanalysis of the pre-convective environment.
A NUCAPS CONUS NOAA-20 pass occurred at 19z across ND and then again at 20z where the eastern edge of this pass overlapped with the previous pass across western ND. At 19z, a comparison was made between the NUCAPS profile and a nearby RAP sounding at the same time. Below Image 1 shows the locations of the NUCAPS profile versus the RAP sounding. This area was chosen as it was close to where the satellite was showing some potential for convective initiation and was just east of the dryline in the area where the better instability was to be present.
Using sharppy the two profiles were then compared simultaneously. Both Images 2 and 3 show the two profiles, but image 2 will be highlighting the NUCAPS profile and associated instability values and image 3 will highlight the RAP sounding with associated instability parameters. Looking at the two profiles, there is not much difference in the mid to upper levels between the NUCAPS and RAP. However, the NUCAPS profile struggles more with the boundary layer features and temperature/dewpoint. Looking at observations, the current temperatures near that sounding location at 19z was 86 deg F with a dewpoint of 70 deg F. The RAP seemed to initialize these surface values pretty well and the thermodynamic profile east of the dryline, along with a bit of a capping inversion in place. Meanwhile, the NUCAPS profile struggled with the temperature and dewpoint, thus under doing the moisture and instability parameters. The CAPE values are noticeably different with the NUCAPS profile much lower with the instability due to these surface differences.
After seeing the discrepancies with the observed surface values versus the NUCAPS profile, I decided to grab the modified NUCAPS profile for the same location for comparison. Image 4 shows this modified sounding with a 10 degree difference between the non-modified surface temperature. The modified sounding shows a 82 deg F surface temperature, while the original NUCAPS profile had 91 deg F. With the cooler surface temperature the modified sounding showed a similar inversion to the RAP sounding between 750-800mb. The dewpoint temperature also was better representative of the actual surface dewpoint, which helped increase the instability parameters significantly. NUCAPS profiles tend to be a tad lower on the CAPE values, so the fact that the RAP is still about 1000 J/kg higher is not a surprise. However, with no RAOB sounding available and comparing the RAP with the modified NUCAPS profile there is quite a bit of similarity between the two in terms of the thermodynamic profile. Lastly, as storms begin to fire in the next hour or so and no RAOB profiles closeby, it might be useful to compare and utilize the temperature heights (0, -10, -20, and -30 deg C) for radar interrogation as storms initiate. Knowing the RAP and modified NUCAPS profiles were similar then the heights from the temperature levels could also be compared. The RAP does show higher heights than the modified NUCAPS profile, so this is something to keep in mind and monitor as storms fire along the dryline.
Keeping with the theme of NUCAPS, there was another pass at 20z further west (as mentioned at the beginning) that overlapped the 19z pass in parts of western ND. This included the town of Bismarck, where the office put out a special 20z RAOB sounding. Bismarck was a bit further east than the previous sounding, but was still in the very favorable environment. Images 5 and 6 show the comparison between the NUCAPS sounding at 20z and the RAOB Bismarck special sounding at the same time. Similar results can be seen between the observed sounding and NUCAPS profile where the CAPE values are again lower in the satellite derived sounding. This time the NUCAPS profile did a much better job with the surface temperature and despite the temperature profile being a bit smoother due to lack of detail in the boundary layer, the profile was overall pretty similar to the RAOB temperature profile. The dewpoint profile on the NUCAPS was much drier at the surface and therefore had a bit of a drier boundary layer than the observed sounding, which is likely why the CAPE values are also a bit lower.
Once again the modified NUCAPS profile was compared (Image 7 below). The modified profile did a better job at showing the moisture in the boundary layer and attempted to pick up the dry layer at 650mb, which was actually at 700mb on the RAOB profile. Unfortunately, the temperature was too low and therefore the modified NUCAPS temperature profile shows a very sharp capping inversion that was unrealistic. Overall, the CAPE values did increase with the modified sounding versus the original NUCAPS profile and were closer to the observed sounding. Twice it has been noted that the heights of the temperature levels were closer between the non-modified NUCAPS profiles with the model/observed soundings. There may be some calculation in the modified sounding that is causing the heights to be lower and maybe unrealistic. In scenarios where there is a RAOB sounding, that is the best picture of the atmosphere you can get but it is great to compare the NUCAPS profiles for comparison to future events and potential trends in the satellite derived soundings.
As storms began to initiate across eastern MT, both G16 and G17 GLM were utilized to look for lightning instances in the growing storms. Having both satellites can be super helpful, especially when one viewing angle may not see the strike, while the other does. This happened several times during storm initiation where one satellite would pick up a strike, while the other displayed nothing. Images 8-9 show this occurring twice in two different storms where each satellite picked up a strike that the other did not. As mentioned before, the viewing angle may not be in a good position for the satellite to see the storm’s top and therefore the strike is not bright enough to be detected. Along those lines, the scattering properties in the cloud are also not visible by the angle of the satellite’s view point and could cause the satellite to miss a strike. Lastly, there is a quality assurance that occurs for each product and if the strike wasn’t strong or long enough then the pixel could have been tossed out during this quality assurance. This is why it is so important to utilize both satellites when possible and it is a best practice to err on the side of whichever satellite is showing more lightning is probably more accurate.
ProbSevere version 2 and 3 were compared through the afternoon. The trend continued with version 2 remaining about 20-30% higher in all categories except the tornado probs. Version 3 has leaned towards being slightly higher than version 2 when it comes to tornado probabilities. ProbSevere time series was utilized to track the southernmost storm along the line of storms headed into western ND during the mid afternoon hours. Both radars were pretty far away on either side of the storms, with Glasgow’s radar being slightly closer. The lowest elevation scan was at around 13000-14000 feet when velocity began showing a strong mesocyclone. Image 10 shows the time series of ProbSevere and the readout comparing version 3 with version 2. All four ProbSevere categories were steadily increasing through the last hour with version 2 remaining higher than version 3. Version 2 shows close to 100% probabilities for all but tornado, making this storm look like a slam dunk due to the environmental parameters. Meanwhile version 3 is slightly lower due to the fact that it can pick up on similar storms that occurred in a similar environment with little to no reports (from storm data). This is where version 3 adds in a bit more information to create more realistic probabilities.
Based on the strong rotation in Image 10, the tornado probabilities were close to 30 percent which is relatively high and should give a forecaster confidence on issuance with a lack of lower level radar scans. Chaser footage also helped to back the need for a tornado warning with images of wall clouds, funnels and more being reported from multiple sources. Image 11 shows the time series for ProbSevere along with multiple other parameters. One thing that was interesting to see was the tornado probability drastically dropped in version 2 but remained steady in version 3. Since version 2 is heavily using az shear, you can see the drop in MRMS az shear (red line on second plot down on the far left), which could be correlated with that probability drop in version 2. Also, the MLCIN is slowly increasing (blue line on second plot down on the far right) and could be playing a bit of a role in this drop as well. This is where version 3 might have a leg up on version 2 when it comes to tornado probabilities.
Lastly, the optical winds were utilized to see the winds at the top of the storm. Image 12 shows the optical wind field for 200-100mb. You can see the cooler cloud tops in satellite below the wind field and then the associated diffluence aloft. This is an indication of the very strong supercell that is showing no signs of weakening anytime soon. Also, it is of note that there is another cool cloud top signature a bit further to the northwest associated with another strong supercell with diffluence aloft. The optical wind fields are useful in knowing what is going on aloft and the potential strengthening or even weakening of a storm.
Pulsing storms were occurring today across the Grand Forks CWA, but not much in the way of severe storms early this afternoon. However, storms began to intensify on radar at the eastern edge of the CWA and approaching the western edge of Duluth’s CWA in north central Minnesota. A few tools were analyzed during this process to help identify why storms were suddenly increasing in strength. Mid-level water vapor satellite analysis with 500mb RAP heights showed a potential shortwave moving across the area and helping to intensify storms for a brief period of time.
A comparison of a model sounding with the NUCAPS profile (non-modified vs. modified) was done in order to see the environment these strong to severe storms were heading into later this afternoon. There were subtle differences, but overall the model vs. satellite profiles were pretty comparable. Instability values were higher with the RAP mainly due to the fact that it had a 5 deg F warmer surface temperature. But both profiles were similar with the dewpoints and overall the thermodynamic profile of semi-steep lapse rates along with no capping inversion. With the observed surface temperatures warmer than the RAP had by 3-4 degrees, we decided to check out the modified NUCAPS profile to see if it had warmer temperatures. The modified NUCAPS profile had the same temperatures as the RAP at the surface and was much closer in comparison. However, both the model sounding and NUCAPS sounding were off by 3-4 degrees F on the actual surface temperature, so mental modifications were made to realize the instability was likely more than given with these profiles.
The storms were relatively weak for much of their lifespan, but around 4:30 PM CDT a few cells intensified. A storm in Beltrami County near Red Lake, MN grew steadily in intensity, as seen below with the ProbSevere 3 time series. Wind was the main concern, with plenty of dry air noted on both the NUCAPS and RAP soundings. DCAPE ranged from 800-1100 J/kg on these soundings as well.
Overall probabilities that the storm was severe can be seen in Image 6, which shows the ProbSevere readout for the storm. Both ProbSevere 2 and the newer ProbSevere 3 showed an overall severe probability of 65% and 61%, respectively. The wind threat is lower with ProbSevere 3, which had it at 44%, as compared to Prob Severe 2. This is consistent with the research that has shown the newer version is more conservative than the old version. Research also shows that the newer algorithm output is closer to what actually happens historically, i.e., about 44% of similar storms produced wind damage according to Storm Data.
Scattered strong to severe thunderstorms were popping up along the eastern ND and MN border today. However, these storms were struggling to become severe at times with a majority of the cells pulsing up and down. A NUCAPS pass around 19z provided gridded satellite observations and forecasts for the area to compare with SPC’s mesoanalysis page. The gridded NUCAPS at 19z shows CAPE (Image 1) values ranging from 500-1500 J/kg in the area mentioned above with little to no CIN (Image 2) present based on the gridded NUCAPS data. Image 3 below shows the SPC 19z CAPE/CIN data along with the forecast over the next 6 hours (through 01z). When comparing the 19z SPC mesoanalysis to the gridded NUCAPS, there was not much difference between the two with both showing higher CAPE values further south into Nebraska and Kansas. The gridded NUCAPS for CIN seems a bit erroneous with really no signature for -50 or less of CIN, which is present in the SPC mesoanalysis. This is likely due to the lack of detailed boundary layer features with NUCAPS and the fact that it may likely wipe such smaller inversions.
Looking into the forecasted parameters from NUCAPS, there is a much higher bias in the CAPE values. However, they did a great job at pinpointing an area of higher instability to watch for storms to potentially become more severe with time. The overall CIN forecast looked as if it may start to increase further west near Grand Forks later in the evening, but in central MN where the corridor of CAPE values were higher remained uncapped. As time progressed through the afternoon a few storms did start to intensify and become severe across north central MN with a few severe wind reports. A few lingering surface boundaries were present, along with a weak shortwave at 500mb helped to enhance the storms a bit. I do feel the NUCAPS forecast values for CAPE were a bit too high in comparison to the actual environment and should definitely be compared to model data.
Lastly, the location of storms yesterday provided the chance to compare the GOES-16 and GOES-17 GLM products with one another. However, image 5 shows the extent of the two satellites and GOES-17 was right on the edge of where storms were across the Upper Midwest. As you get further away from the satellite and towards the edge of its coverage, you can start to notice more of a tilt in the gridded data. This may cause some erroneous data as seen in comparison with GOES-16. Comparing the GOES-16 data (Image 6) with the GOES-17 data (Image 7), there is a better display of the minimum flash area and lightning sizes with the GOES-16. You can see GOES-16 shows more of a mixture of shorter and longer flashes (purple and yellow colors), while GOES-17 sees strong shorter flashes (yellow colors). Also, the further away the satellite is to the storms the more likely the flash extent density may be less accurate. This is likely due to the storms being on the edge of the satellite’s reach. Therefore it is important to check out both satellites when possible, but take into account where the storms are in respect to the satellites coverage.
Here are a few more supplemental images of the GLM GOES-16 satellite versus the GOES-17 with similar concerns as mentioned above.
Today we focused on the slight risk across the southeast, specifically WFO Jackson, MS. During the afternoon hours, a small linear complex was coming across northern LA towards Jackson’s CWA. Right before the CWA line, there was a wind report of snapped tree limbs of 3” diameter from Monroe Airport. There was also a measured gust from the airport of 41 mph. The velocity on radar had ~60 knot outbound winds at around 14,000 – 15,000 feet, which easily could have produced a few severe gusts to the surface. The gifs below show the linear line of storms and the associated velocity as the system moved over Monroe Airport in northeast LA with the wind report at 1952z and then continued to enter western MS.
Image 1 shows a loop of radar reflectivity with prob severe overlaid and Image 2 shows the velocity associated with the radar loop.
In this situation, prob severe was not doing as good of a job on picking up on these “stronger” winds. Image 3 below shows the time of the wind damage report and 41 mph gust at the airport in northeast LA, but prob severe and prob wind are both only picking up about 20% probability of this potential. Almost two hours later, the line of storms are a bit weaker on reflectivity but just as strong or even stronger on velocity. Note, the storms were also closer to the radar at Image 4, so the stronger outbound velocities were closer to the surface. So this led to wondering is prob severe a good indicator for straight line winds?
Prob severe utilizes azimuthal shear which as seen in the Images 3 and 4 below are not present with solely outbound velocities and little to no inbound present. This is common for straight line wind scenarios, but not super helpful in terms of how prob wind is calculated. Also, the prob severe is an object oriented product that utilizes reflectivity for these objects. In this scenario, the reflectivity definitely began to weaken but velocity did not. The toughest part was the prob severe began to decrease over the two hour time span shown above, but yet several damaging wind reports of roofs blown off and trees/power lines down led me to believe the probability of prob wind should have remained constant or increased over time.
While investigating the prob severe I also took a look into the lightning characteristics within the line as you can see in the GIF below (Image 5) that there is the formation of some trailing stratiform on reflectivity. A still image was taken (Image 6) to show how the lightning began to extend westward into the light stratiform. The flash area (top right of the four panel) shows the darker purple color extending westward, which indicates the storm mode is more of that light stratiform rain with longer flashes extending through it rather than the intense small flashes within the leading line. This can be helpful in time when you may have a DSS event and the main line has passed through, but lightning is still present in the trailing light rain. Pairing the ground networks with the GLM extent and area allows a forecaster to give DSS on the latest CG stroke within the large area.
Lastly, there was a NUCAPS CONUS NOAA-20 satellite pass at around 19z, which was well before the line of storms made it to the western Jackson CWA line. No special radiosonde launches were made by local offices, so the next best observational guess of the atmospheric profile would be from satellite. Model soundings were also available to compare at the time. A RAP sounding at 19z was taken just east of the western MS border (see Image 7 below for location of this sounding) and a very nearby NUCAPS sounding was also retrieved for comparison (see Image 8 below for location of this sounding).
The soundings (Image 9 and 10 below) looked fairly similar between the model and satellite profiles; however, there were several major differences that played a key role in changing the instability parameters. The NUCAPS sounding was still slightly too low of a surface temperature with 86 deg F versus the RAP’s 89 deg F. Surface observations from 19z at that location showed a temperature of around 91 deg F. Also, the surface dewpoint was far too low on the NUCAPS profile at the surface as it was 5 degrees below the current observation at 19z. Meanwhile, the RAP was only one degree lower than the current surface dewpoint. These subtle differences caused significant variations in the CAPE values.
After realizing the NUCAPS profile was not accurately depicting the surface temperature/dewpoint, I decided to see what the modified sounding might look like through NSHARP. Image 11 below shows the modified NUCAPS sounding through NSHARP with a much cooler surface temperature of near 80 deg F. This was almost 10 deg below the actual surface temperatures and 6 deg below the original NUCAPS profile. The boundary layer was not representative due to this drastic difference and therefore the modified sounding had to be thrown out of the comparison.
Lastly, with knowing the line of storms were headed into the area of interest I decided to see how the forecast products were looking. Unfortunately, I did not get to save the images off in time as the forecast images disappear from AWIPS when the next pass occurs. So I was left with the web-browser version which is only in a gridded format. Unfortunately it is very difficult to depict changes in this format, whereas in AWIPS you can interpolate the image and smooth the results for a more concise display of values. Image 13 shows the comparison of the web-browser gridded format versus the AWIPS smoothed version for the West Coast pass of the NOAA-20 satellite.
Our team, as WFO/JAN, chose the setup for the Mississippi Pickle Fest at 1150 Lakeland Drive Jackson, MS as our IDSS location today (Tue, 08 Jun). Per SPC Outlooks, the Jackson area was on the “edge” of the Marginal Risk Area for severe weather. As operations began for today, a thundershower was noted to the SW of Jackson, moving NE toward the IDSS location of interest:
A modified NUCAPS sounding from near Jackson, MS (which became available later), indicated plenty of instability/CAPE (2000-3500 J kg-1), suggesting that the thundershower would be maintained as it advected toward the Pickle Fest location. This would be a good time for a “heads-up” to the event venue or EM. The unmodified NUCAPS sounding (not shown) still suggested sufficient instability aloft for the storm to maintain itself.
The ProbLightning product on the Web, somewhat surprisingly, still showed only ~25% chance of a GLM lightning flash within the next 60 minutes at 2001 UTC, but this had increased to 75% by 2026 UTC:
By 2029 UTC, the electrical activity was nearly overhead:
Interestingly, the NUCAPS forecast CIN was forecast to increase over the next couple of hours (valid 22UTC, below), after the storm passed, but ahead of another, stronger line further upstream (not shown).
Based on this, and the rapid collapse of electrical activity within the shower around 2110 UTC, a reasonably confident “all-clear” could have been given to the venue at that time…or at least until the upstream line approaches in a couple of hours, assuming it holds together.
Using the minimum flash area to show where the smaller lightning strikes occur but is associated with stronger updraft with cells building faster (Yellow) to generate lightning. Larger lightning strikes occur in the stratiform area of the precipitation field where charge building is slower (Purple). This is also a good way to indicate convective mode as the system translates from individual (SuperCell) to a linear mode.
Using NUCAPS (Modified vs. Unmodified). Why the CAP at mid-levels noted in Arkansas? Is this reasonable or an artifact of the program that isn’t real.
WFO Amarillo launched a 19z special sounding today in support of potential severe storms later in the evening. Meanwhile, NOAA-20 passed over WFO Amarillo at 1935z, merely 30 minutes after the observed sounding release but likely about an hour before the full observed profile was complete.
An SPC marginal risk was over west Texas (see below) for the 20z issuance with the main threats being large hail and damaging wind gusts. The 12z observed sounding from Amarillo shows a pronounced low level capping inversion with a convective temperature of around 86 degrees F. Overall, the wind profile is weak with little to no shear but just enough to support a few strong to severe storms. Mixed layer CAPE is around 1000 J/kg, but the downdraft CAPE is closer to 1200 and supports the potential for some strong to damaging wind gusts with collapsing storms and/or areas conducive to strong downward motion.
Sharppy was then utilized to compare the observed 19z sounding from Amarillo to the closest NUCAPS sounding to the office’s location. Image B contains the values for the observed sounding with the purple representing the sharppy NUCAPS sounding. Image C contains the values for the sharppy NUCAPS with the observed sounding in purple. One of the biggest differences between the soundings that plays a key role in the instability parameters is the surface temperatures. The observed sounding recorded a surface temperature of 83 degrees F, which the sharppy NUCAPS sounding recorded a surface temperature of 89 degrees F. That difference of 6 degrees fully breaks the capping inversion on the sharppy NUCAPS sounding, but the observed sounding still appears to be a few degrees shy of breaking the 750mb cap. The values such as MLCAPE are drastically different with the observed sounding showing around 1500 J/kg, while the sharppy NUCAPS sounding shows ~2500 J/kg. The observed sounding does show an increase since the 12z launch of DCAPE now around 1600 J/kg, but the sharppy NUCAPS does not relay this same increase and instead remains near 1200 J/kg.
So the biggest fault in the NUCAPS values being off was likely the surface temperatures being too warm. In order to validate this reasoning, the modified NUCAPS sounding for this time and location was utilized. However, since the modified soundings are calculated with NSHARP and not sharppy, the original NUCAPS from both algorithms were compared. Image D shows the NSHARP NUCAPS sounding pulled from the CAVE in awips. This can be compared to Image C, which was the NUCAPS sounding plotted with a different program called sharppy.
Looking at the profile itself, the biggest difference that stands out would be near the surface. As stated before the surface temperature on the sharppy NUCAPS sounding was 89 deg F, while the NSHARP sounding reveals a surface temperature of around 80 deg F. The NSHARP sounding temperature is lower than the observed sounding at 19z, but yet was able to mix out the capping inversion. Knowing that NUCAPS in general is not overly impressive with the boundary layer, there is a chance had there been a 12z pass, that the NUCAPS sounding wouldn’t have had such a strong inversion as the observational sounding at 12z showed. Therefore the surface temperature wouldn’t have needed to be as warm. The remainder of the parameters seem to compare pretty well between the two versions of the NUCAPS profile.
Now, what happens if the surface temperature from observations are used to modify the NSHARP NUCAPS profile for better representation of that boundary layer. Image E represents this modified sounding where the surface temperature is now closer to 83 deg F, which is what the 19z observed sounding from the same location measured. Comparing this modified sounding to the observed, there is still the issue of the NUCAPS wiping out the inversion layer at around 750 mb. Warming the temperature was not going to bring the inversion back, so this is something that is more a failure starting with the non-modified NSHAPR NUCAPS profile. MLCAPE is still significantly different, but ignoring the inversion in the observed sounding and looking at a surface based parcel, the two soundings are pretty comparable with around 3500 J/kg of SBCAPE. Downdraft CAPE values did not change with the modified NSHARP NUCAPS sounding and this could allude to the fact that again the NUCAPS profiles lack good boundary layer details and a much smoother profile.
Overall, had Amarillo not done a 12z launch, the NUCAPS profiles were pretty comparable to the observed sounding. The biggest concern would be if the purpose was to find if there still remains a capping inversion in place that may hinder storm development. Spoiler alert, storms did develop as temperatures warmed a bit more through the afternoon and were also just a bit warmer further west along the New Mexico/Texas border. A few severe wind reports occurred with the cluster of storms, along with some small hail and maybe even a few larger hail stones of around a quarter that weren’t reported.