Northern VA/Maryland Convective Episode on 6/3/2021

Image 1: 1943 UTC GOES East Mesosector Day Cloud Phase Distinction

The modified NUCAPS sounding from 1730 UTC revealed in excess of 2,000 J/kg of CAPE (image 2) and by 1900 UTC thunderstorms had developed in an area less shaded by high level cloud cover. Comparing this to RAP mesoanalysis data, it initially seemed too high as RAP mesoanalysis suggested closer to 1000-1500 J/kg (not shown)  and based on initial lightning activity. SBCAPE from NUCAPS was extremely high and close to 4,000 J/kg which seems very high (image 3). We did note that for some reason the NUCAPS forecast image showed CAPE being “missing” over central MD/northern VA while the CIN fill was more complete. When sampled over the “missing” data in AWIPS in the Cloud,  the readout showed actual values.

Image 2: NUCAPS Sounding near Washington D.C.
Image 3: NUCAPS CAPE and CIN forecast at 2100 UTC
Image 3: 2000 UTC 4 Panel of Day Land Cloud Phase

Initially, storms appeared to struggle with flash counts on the order of 10 to 20 flashes. Over the course of 30 to 45 minutes, lightning flash counts increased by an order of magnitude (closer to 100-150 flashes)

Closer to 2020-2030 UTC the rigor of convective elements increased and we started seeing transient echo overhang/along with some weak echo regions in tandem with an increase in both lightning activity as well as ProbSevere trends (especially ProbSevere3) as seen in Image 4. This increased our confidence in issuing our own warnings with LWX having a couple of warnings already issued.

Image 4: ProSevere Time Series just after 2000 UTC.
Image 5: LWX 0.9 Reflectivity Image near 2000 UTC
Image 6 and 7:(LEFT) ProbSevere Time Series around 20:30 UTC.  (RIGHT) 4 Panel (from top left to bottom right) of Day Land Cloud Phase Distinction, Radar+GLM FED, Day Land Cloud Convection + TOE, ProbSevere3 + GLM MFA

Closer to 21:50 UTC things became a bit more interesting from both a radar and lightning standpoint. Imagery from the KDOX radar (Central Delaware) suggested increasing mesocyclogenesis across Baltimore County (image 8) due north of Baltimore.

Image 8: 20:48Z 0.5 degree cut from KDOX indicating low level mesoscyclone.
Image 9: 4 Panel of ProbSevere, GLM FED, GLM MFA, GLM TOE at 20:45 UTC
Image10: 4 Panel of ProbSevere, GLM FED, GLM MFA, GLM TOE at 20:51 UTC

From a comparison of these images, there was certainly an indication that the updraft was increasing  as FED magnitude increased from 51 flashes/5 min to 99 flashes/5 min. MFA also became more concentrated NW of the City of Baltimore and Baltimore County as seen in images 9 and 10. WFO LWX issued a Tornado Warning around 20:51 UTC.

An animation of the TDWR at Baltimore Washington Airport (image 11) had signs of a possible low-level RFD surge (not shown) in the 0.5 degree rapid scan tilt and increasing low level rotation consistent with either a stronger surge of straight line winds or a QLCS mesovortex/tornado. Aloft, (not shown) there did appear to be healthy reflectivity aloft and the concentrated MFA may suggest that a strengthening updraft.  

Image 11: TBWI 0.5 Reflectivity and Velocity image at 20:50 UTC looking at tornado warned storm.

Image 11 from KDOX shows a loose mid-level mesocyclone with a gradual increase in ProbSevere3 with the time series. In this image, the storm was currently tornado warned by WFO LWX. At time we’d likely opt for a tornado possible warning and monitor very, very closely.

Image 12: 21:02 UTC Showing ProbSevere Time Series with KDOX 0.5 data (left panels) and GOES/GLM data (right panels) + ProbSevere

By 21:13Z The storm of interest is looking LESS favorable for tornado although prob severe tor increased significantly to closer to 20% perhaps due to an elongated zone of low level shear.

Image 13: 21:13Z KDOX Radar Imagery

Prob Severe Table Ideas:  If the tables could open in a floating tab in Awips that would be very helpful. This way you can manually dock and move the tab around in awips. This way you can quickly view the tab and keep it open until you want to just close it.  You can also rename the tab to whatever will help you keep track of the storm that it belongs to. This would get around needing to color code multiple tables etc.

A separate tab will also allow room to show additional information (beyond just prob severe).

Prob Severe jumped to nearly 80% with a fast moving bowing segment through Montgomery County.

Storm in question is the southeastern storm here.

– By Miles and Dwight Schrute

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Observations over the Sterling CWA

Looked at the modified NUCAPS sounding for and the low levels, below 700mb, were un representative (had an inversion when SPC mesoanalysis had no CINH), however the sky had roughly 80% cloud cover.

NUCAPS Base Sounding
NUCAPS Modified Sounding, Same Location as Above

Looking at the NUCAPS forecast, the holes in the output field due to the cloud cover.  The lack of data was in a bad location, preventing us from seeing the instability potential for a line of storms coming in from the west.  The gridded format was actually better to use in this case as it helped fill in the gap.

Interpolated CAPE NUCAPS Imagery

The interpolated data is easier to visualize gradients in the variables, but our experience was that some important data was filtered out by having this turned on.

The time in the lower left is 19.99z.  A key for the “all” field would be helpful to understand what I am looking at.

Having the CWA borders is handy, however having it as it’s own layer would be more helpful, and separating out the CWA borders from the state borders.

Can storm names be used to correlate the time series (F6, D3) and also have the names plotted in AWIPS for the storms I am looking at a time series of; would be more beneficial than having the lat/lon

-for example, click for a time series of one storm triggers a storm ID to show up in the time series and in AWIPS

-I click another storm and another time series shows up with the storm ID in the time series and in AWIPS allowing me to see which time series goes to which storm

If prob severe and its time series could be put into GR that would greatly improve DSS services when outside the office.  The AWIPS thin client is sloooow, so being able to have the same ability, or similar ability to interrogate storms as in the office would greatly help improve the quality of DSS when deployed.

Prob severe version three continues to look more reasonable for severe wind than version two

Noticed an increasing 5 minute trend in the minimum flash area that was reflected in the FED about 5 minutes later.  Seeing the sustained increase in one minute minimum flash area caused me to pay more attention to that storm than I did earlier due to the sustained growth

While monitoring a storm with FED and minimum flash area, the FED suddenly went down.  The same trend was not seen in the minimum flash area as easily.  Maybe the minimum flash area is more useful tool for monitoring the growth of storm while the FED is better suited for monitoring the overall trend in storm strength and sudden weakening.

Downward trends in FED for one of the storms matched what was being seen on satellite of the storm updraft becoming more ragged as it weakened due to entraining dry air.

-would be great to have lightning data such as FED plotted in a time series as well so trends are more easily seen

The stronger storm we were monitoring (same as in the screenshot below), prob severe version 3 was higher than version 2 for 15 minutes atleast.  Looking closer this was due to the hail category being higher than version two; version three was also higher than version two in the wind category, but not nearly as much.  Toward the end of our time version two was higher due to higher probabilities in the wind category.  Interesting.

We monitored this particular cell on and off throughout the afternoon and tried to gain a better understanding of the minimum flash area. We noticed a close cluster of negative strikes, which really helped as a visual aide for what the GLM was seeing. The GLM MFA was able to isolate the core of the storm really well. We combined this with ProbSevere, and watched the probabilities on this storm increase which was a further confidence booster that the storm was intensifying in addition to what was seen by GLM and ENTLN.  

– Accas and Groot

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Day 2 thoughts


Can there be a circle (or some reference) around the NUCAPS point that I am currently using for a sounding?  That way I have a reference on the map for where the sounding is that I am looking at.

Can more than two NUCAPS sounding be loaded into an AWIPS pane?  If so, would nice be able to compare soundings/environments more easily.

Having the ability to display one NUCAPS sounding when I have two loaded in Sharppy would be helpful.  Even when loading two soundings and only have one in “focus” the two soundings overwrite each other.  Can this setup be similar to AWIPS that allows us to have multiple soundings loaded and be able to turn one or both of them on when we choose?

Compared a couple NUCAPS soundings surface conditions to the obs for a couple locations and they look reasonable.

Looking at the forecast CAPE/CIN from NUCAPS, the gridded field for CIN is quite splotchy.  Bulls eyes of much higher CIN seem overdone compared to what is expected during the mid afternoon with full sun and with what the SPC mesoanalysis has.  This would make me question how accurate it is.   Looking at the forecast, there is no consistent trend with the CIN bulls eyes, which lowers my confidence in this field. The CAPE field is more uniform, though still splotchy.  The areas of higher CAPE are more consistent, giving me more confidence in this field than the CIN.  Is there a way to average out this field more to make it smoother?  If so, that would greatly increase my confidence in this parameter and my likelihood of using it in the future.

Noticed the surface based CAPE in AWIPS vs. Sharppy was quite a bit higher in Sharppy.

Compared the ML CAPE in a modified NUCAPS sounding in AWIPS and an unmodified NUCAPS sounding in Sharppy and the modified lined up much more closely with the SPC mesoanalysis page.  The the ML CAPE in the unmodified sounding in Sharppy was too low.  Surface based CAPE was actually more representative in the unmodified sounding.

As mentioned earlier, would be nice to compare more than two sounding points for NUCAPS to aid in comparing the environment more easily.

Having the NUCAPS 2m temperature and DP in F instead of C would be much more useable and easier to compare to surface observations.

Noticed the 2m temperature for the gridded NUCAPS was cooler by 5-8 C compared to the observations.  This makes me looks confidence with the CAPE and CIN plots if the surface temperatures are not accurate.  Is there a way to grid the modified NUCAPS data?  When I forecast I like to view parameters in a gridded fashion in the horizontal.  This helps me better understand what is going on with the environment.

Compared the NUCAPS 700-500mb lapse rates to those on SPC’s mesoanalysis page and found the NUCAPS was close, but on the cool side.

In our data sparse CWA, I can see these soundings as being quite useful, as long as forecasters understand the low levels (assuming below 850mb) are less likely to be representative.

Taking a look at the minimum flash area…

Difficult for me to really see any sort of trend with the 1 minute data.  Nothing really catches my eye.  The 5 minute data is much more easy to see trends.  

As mentioned yesterday, am able to see more valuable information with trends in the storm than with flash density.


Looking at the optical winds…

The background is a bit too dark.  Can the Lat/Lon be put below the imagery?  Having it above seems to detract from what is being displayed.  Adding state borders, cities, would add to the usability of this product, especially if these labels can be turned on and off.

I like being able to pan the image.

I can see this being handy for monitoring for LLWS for aviation, assuming there are clouds to track.  Could this data be merged with NUCAPS to plot shear and helicity?   

Changing the density of the vectors would be handy.  

Color coding the different levels and matching it to the key is easy to determine what level I am looking at.  

Could this track the speed of dust?  If so, could help determine how strong the winds are in dust storms.

Curious why the pressure levels are broken down into 200mb intervals.  Could the winds also be tied to theta levels to help with isentropic analysis?

Having contours for the winds would help limit information overload as far as what is being shown.  Being able to control the density of the number of wind vectors would help, however that could lose some data.  Contours of the wind vectors, say every 5 or 10 kts, could help summarize what the individual vectors are showing.



Sampling of Sub-Severe Convection Across the Southeast

Modified NUCAPS sounding appeared to have a better handle on the environment compared to baseline NUCAPS sounding. However, it also appears it might not be totally representative of the atmosphere given the partly cloudy conditions at the time RTMA data was pulled in. The SPC mesoanalysis page suggested MLCAPE upwards of 2500 J/kg in an uncapped environment.  Using the gridded mid level lapse rate product from NUCAPS we found the data to be representative. It verified well with what was shown in the NUCAPS soundings and matched with the values suggested by the SPC Meso Analysis page.


The NUCAPS mid-level lapse rates were fairly representative when compared to the SPC mesoanalysis page. This was further evidence that large hail was probably not going to be in the cards for the Jackson area today, but marginally severe wind gusts would be something to watch.


Prob Severe version 2 vs version 3, particularly in prob severe wind:

In this event, the prob severe there was a sig wx statement and severe thunderstorm warning put out by the Huntsville office. Around that time, the prob severe was increased specifically for the prob severe wind component. The version 2 had a prob severe value of 3% while the version 3 had a 53%.  Version 3 better captured the significance of the storm with a 40 mph gust reported around the same time.  This is significant since we were also discussing how filtering lower prob severe thresholds would be useful in decluttering the operational screen. We could have missed this event if that was the case (with version 2).

Based on this experience, we can see the vast improvement in the wind component of prob severe version 3.

21:16 UTC ProbSevere Sample (note V2 versus V3 differences in sample).
Local Storm Report of a measured 41mph wind gust in Colbert County AL, just north of the contoured ProbSevere storm.
1 Minute FED overlaid with ENTLN 5 minute (1 minute update) and GM Flash Point

GLM Observation:

Saw a steady lightning jump depicted in the GLM FED correlated with a storm that NWS Huntsville issued a Severe Thunderstorm Warning on. Several mPING reports of wind damage (assuming sub-severe with no LSRs issued as of this time) which raises confidence that storms are intensifying. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this screenshot is seeing the parallax-correction in action when looking at the Flash Points.

Optical Wind:  

Still difficult to tell where you are geographically.  Suggestions to perhaps swap the lime green grid with the state outline colors.

Additionally, the time stamp gets cut off if you zoom in on the product and occasionally gets covered by the wind barbs themselves. Perhaps a floating time stamp would be better for this instance.

Time stamp for the image above.

A note about the timestamps:

The time stamps attached to the wind barbs appear to be formatted incorrectly, showing times like 21.97Z, note the actual time correctly formatted shown in the image below was actually 21:58Z.

– Groot and Dwight Schrute

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NOAA-20 Pass Ahead of Severe Convection

The San Angelo CWA was expecting severe convection in the afternoon.  There was a NOAA-20 pass over their CWA at 1927Z.  A NUCAPS Sounding in the clear air ahead of ongoing convection was chosen.  The approximate point of this sounding is shown by the white circle in the left image.  The sounding in the right image showed an environment very favorable for severe convection, including hail.  Since ongoing severe storms were heading in this direction (left image), the storms could be expected to maintain their intensity or possibly strengthen.

– Champion

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Pocatello Storms

We’re currently monitoring conditions in eastern Idaho. Right now I’m using various applications to analyze and initialize current conditions. Currently AllSky is showing cape around 1000kj, and PWATS around .80 inches.

That PWAT value on the morning sounding just west of the area was close to .64″. Seeing how moisture levels are lower to west I can interpolate that the moisture values are similar to what’s show on allsky. The allsky 900-700mb also seems to pick up on the relatively moist area in the lower half of the atmosphere.

Looking downstream we’re noticing a line of developing convection using the Day land cloud RGB. It’s helpful to analyze just how high the tops of the storms are getting combined with cloud tops.

Zooming in closer I can examine the few storms that have popped up more closely. The RBG help the differentiate between the ambient cirrus clouds from the growing storms. That might not have been as easy to see using a typical visible view.

The AFA and Minimum flash area maximums are hinting at growing convection just downwind.  That growth leads to me to anticipate further intensification as these storms move into a more favorable environment in eastern Idaho.

As storms begin to intensify probsever eis picking up on the strongest activity. Probsevere began to ramp up for the cell just south pf Pocatella. That combined with traditional radar methods lead me to issues a warning for that cell.

A similar situation unfolded with a south just south of CWA that I debated on warning. The probsevere values did show and uptick. Eventually the storm fell apart as it pushed into southern Idaho.

We’re watching a few cells in the southern half of the viewing area.  As NUCAPS comes in I’m comparing it the allsky cape. The allsky cape is around 1100kj.

The modified sounding is putting out about 700kj of ml cape. While the nonmodified is much lower down to 500kj.

We don’t have a midday sounding to see which one is initializing the best. For what it’s worth. The rap cape output is around 500kj.

The TPW was close to the observed pwats as well. It was outputting about .65″.

The FED has been fairly low this afternoon which isn’t typical for what I have been usually see. However, the AFA and the MFA are higher indicative of growing updrafts. I’m thinking the FED might be lower because of potential hail in the updraft.

The cell pushing out of Freemont county Idaho continues to intensify as it pushed into Montana. Both the MD, and NMDA were picking up on a high meso that was clearly seen on SRM.


The CPTI was showing high probabilities as well.  I still wasn’t as concerned about a tornado threat due to how high the base of the storm was. It was interesting to see though.

The forecast cape and cin values came in from the NUCAPS,  but it wasn’t usable for my area because their was a lot of missing data.

The actual Pocatella office issued a warning for Freemont county. Using typical radar methods the storm didn’t look like it warranted a severe thunderstorm warning, but satellite and MFA showed new convection was still firing up. Right after looking at satellite there was a report of a 54mph wind gusts.


Springfield Illinois Storms

Right now I’m analyzing the various new products to nowcast where and when storms will intensify. Currently I’m comparing ALLsky cape to the mesoanalysis from the spc. Right now the mesoanalysis is higher with cape compared to allsky. Over our area the it’s cloudy so the it’s taking data from the GFS.

A cell in our western counties ramped up very quickly while our computers were down. Prob severe immediately directed our eye to the cell. The probsevere lined  up with an uptick in vil values and velocity.

I’m comparing the actual sounding to what’s shown on nucaps, and allsky to see what’s initializing the best. The actual sounding shows 3025kj of surface lavyer cape and 1453 of mixed layer.

Around the same time allsky shows a similar value of cape.

The modified sounding was closest to the actual sounding with 1515kj of mixed layer cape

The nonmodified sounding is much lower when it comes to mixed layer and surface cape. In the case the modified sounding was more reliable and gave a more accurate picture of the current state of the atmosphere.

The all sky cape was much higher, around 2300kj.

That increase might be due to the fact that the sampled area of interest was filled in by the GFS. Whatever input the GFS was taking into might have lead to it overestimating the amount of CAPE.

I’m also looking at GLM products to see trends with convection. The combination of event density and GLM minimum flash area help me to see the rapidly growing updrafts as well as cell that are producing hail. That’s the case right now. My warned cell is producing penny size hail.

About an hour later the FED Is starting to pick up on longer flashes, but the event density is still showing higher values. The lines up with satellite which shows overshooting tops, but storms are overall keeping their intensity. The overall trend combined with looking at stability indices aids me in nowcasting that storms will at least maintain their strength over the next hour or so.

The Day Land Cloud convection RGB was helpful in analyzing different cloud tops. The color scale highlighted the thin cirrus compared to the lower thick clouds. It also dipicted the outflow boundary from our southern storms very well. It gives much more detail to the cloud types compared to the visible satellite.

Today I also got the chance to analyze and compare the merged TPW precipital water with the allsky.

During the afternoon the PW values stayed fairly steady across the northern half of the state while moisture increased in southern Illinois.

The TPW decreased PWATS to close to 1 inch as storms moved through. T

That data was sampled in a cloudy environment.

Meanwhile, the AllSky does show a decrease in PWATS but’s farther north compared to what actually happened. That data was pulled from the GFS since it was in a cloudy location. It was helpful to see how each product performed in this environment. It’s nice to have access to both in order to see which one has the best handle of the current atmosphere. That initialization helps me monitor trends and nowcast.

As storms moved south out of my DMA I used Day convection RGB just to monitor growing cells. It was clear to see the strongest storms because they had the bright yellow maxes.

Earlier in the day was able to compare NMDA with the low level azshear. Tornadoes were’t a major threat, but the NMDA did line up with peak areas of Azshear. That storm did produce wind damage, and strong wind gusts.

Taylor Johnson.

NUCAPS Soundings indicating much higher CAPE than All-Sky values

The All-sky CAPE product has shown a pool of lower CAPE values (1200-1300), probably a result of earlier collapsed convection. However, values of CAPE farther down in the southern IND CWA are a little higher (1800-2200), as would be expected.  More interesting is the latest modified NUCAPS pass with soundings indicating much higher CAPE values on the order of 3500-4000 in the south and 1800-3500 elsewhere in the central and northern IND area. Based on this information, I’ll be expecting to see convection flaring up in the south in the next hour or so.

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