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

ProbWind and ProbTor Performance

ProbSevere May Have Caught a Missed Severe Wind Event

The ProbSevere v3 drew attention to a cell near Bloomington, IN on the afternoon of June 8th. Specifically it was drawing attention to the wind threat with a high ProbWind percentage reaching 50% to 60%. However, radar interrogation was only initially yielding velocity of 30-40kts on the inbound side of the cell, sub-severe but certainly SPS worthy. There were a few scans yielding up to 45kts as well. So initially there was a little wondering why there was higher ProbWind percentages. Quick realization of the storm track being perpendicular to the radar beam could explain the lower velocity signatures here. Knowing this, ProbSevere and its ProbWind portion was drawing attention to a scenario that otherwise may have been missed if only looking at velocity data and not realizing the storm track relative to the radar beam.

ProbSevere v3 of “Bloomington Cell”

STP went up at 20Z coincident with new SPC mesoanalysis.

ProbSevere v3 readouts of “Bloomington Cell” at 1940Z

KIND Velocity signature of the “Bloomington Cell” @ 1941Z

ProbTOR Missed a Likely Tornado Event – First Example

At 2005Z the KIND radar showed a solid and persistent tornado signature on a cell near Shelbyville, IN. To go along with this in the overall outlook for the day was an MD highlighting the tornado risk and a Tornado Watch that included the southern half of IN. However, the ProbTor parameter did not tick up in response to the tornado signature on radar. The observed uptick at 2000Z, coincided with the intake of the new SPC mesoanalysis data that ProbSevere v3 ingests as described by the product’s providers. Even still, this uptick was small only amounting to a ~5% increase.
ProbTor only peaking at ~15%
The second image below may explain some of this away, showing that two individual cells were coalesced into a single storm identified by ProbSevere v3. These two cells were relatively close to each other, so much so that they did appear as one on MRMS data. However, the third image of SRM and V show the tornado signature associated with the northern cell. This combination, with the southern cell having a much lower tornado potential and being ingested by the northern cell may have played a role in lowering the overall ProbTor percentage.
ProbSevere v3 showing that cell being grouped with another to its south, could this have inhibited the increase in ProbTor?
SRM (left) and V (right) showing the TOR signature with this cell.
Multiple LSRs for wind damage were observed from this event, with a “tornado possible” added to the remarks.

The PHS SigTOR parameter also further supported the tornado risk during the 2000Z hour. The image below shows the PHS SigTOR parameter at 2000Z with ProbTOR percentages overlaid on top. The cell which produced the likely tornado east of Shelbyville, IN is sampled in the image with the ProbTOR only at 9%.

PHS SigTOR parameter pegging the area that produced a TOR. The cell highlighted with ProbTor readout produced the Tornado Warning referenced earlier.

ProbTOR Missed a Likely Tornado Event – Second Example

From roughly 2130Z to 2200Z, a supercell passing west to east through west-central OH showed a persistent meso signature as seen from the KILN radar in Wilmington, OH. This signature eventually depicted gate-to-gate shear and tornado warnings were issued for this cell. The same ongoing Tornado Watch from the prior example also covered this same region. Image three also shows the PHS SigTOR Parameter showing higher tornado potential in the region, although not directly overlaid with where the Tipp City cell was. However, the ProbTor parameter of ProbSevere v3 did not show a corresponding jump in tornado potential. Unlike the prior example which showed the ProbSevere v3 grabbing a second much weaker cell with the tornado producing cell, this was a discrete cell with no merger occurring.

Highlighted in the Tornado Warning issued by the Wilmington, OH office, was a tornado debris signature. The KDAY metar located just south of Tipp City also included “tornado” in the remarks signature, shown in image four.

KILN SRM and V showing tornado signature near Tipp City.

Time series of ProbSevere with persistently low ProbTor for tornado warned storm west of Tipp City.

PHS SigTOR Parameter highlighting higher tornado potential in the region with overlaid ProbSevere – ProbTor percentage for tornado warned cell by Tipp City.

The KDAY metar showed “tornado” in the remarks section for the cell passing through Tipp City.

– Trip

PHS, NUCAPS, Optical Flow, Prob Severe Fun


Today worked out well with PHS and NUCAPS. NUCAPS data came in shortly after opening up our work stations. We decided to compare the output between PHS, NUCAPS, and SPC mesoscale analysis. The variable that we chose was surface CAPE.
They all seemed to match up well highlighting the higher instability to the south that would gradually  push north this afternoon. It was definitely a confidence builder in each product to see the agreement between them.

Optical Flow

We also decided to compare the Optical Flow winds to SPC mesoscale analysis. Once storms developed a bit more, you can pick out a slight directional divergence signal in the flow. Looking at SPC mesoscale analysis there is also directional divergence is present in the mesoscale analysis.
Overall looking at these two examples, using these tools together can be a way to verify information and give the meteorologist more confidence (or less) in a specific product to help them with forecasts, DSS, and warning operations.

Prob Severe

We were able to compare Prob Severe V3 to the time when there was an observed report and when the new tornado warning came with a radar observed tag due to a CC drop. The first image is when there was a twitter report of a tornado around 2142Z in SE Darke county.

At 2144Z the Prob Severe V2 tornado jumped to 21% while V3 only went to 6%.

The next image below is when the radar confirmed tornado was reported.
– Noctilucent & Matador

PHS CAPE localized maximum compared with storms developing in the area

PHS CAPE values increase from north to south over Fort Stockton. This correlated well with RAP mesoanalyzed SB CAPE on SPC webpage. Storms actively going up along this gradient as an outflow boundary pushed south during the early afternoon from overnight convection over Oklahoma.

PHS CAPE 18Z 1 hour forecast for 19Z

PHS CAPE 18Z 2 hour forecast for 20Z.

Storms developing over Fort Stockton via Day Cloud Phase Distinction on GOES 17 Mesosector

We showed above that the north side of the outflow would contain more instability – which is directly related to the moisture from the morning MCS outflow. The Gridded NUCAPS provides additional insight using the 850mb moisture fields from both AQUA and NOAA20 respectively – validating our hypothesis.

We double checked since there was a dust advisory/dust in the forecast and yes – Dust

Don’t warn if pop = 0

Convection was skirting the northeast portion of the CWA so we’ll use the recent pass of NOAA-20 to view the potential for convection redevelopment to the west and affecting the forecast in our CWA. Here are the Modified NUCAPS soundings:

The top image is for the sounding in Jones county, below is Scurry – which shows a capping inversion still in place.

Storm Motion

Weak winds aloft and throughout the atmosphere have contributed to very little in the way of storm motion. Hence, locally heavy rainfall may begin to evolve, even over an area that has received very little rainfall in the last 6 months.

Optical Flow Winds in the 200-100 mb level.

Day Cloud Phase valid 2041Z.

Day Cloud Phase valid 2141Z.

PHS depicts this plume of moisture and associated instability will back into New Mexico this evening. Could it play a part in tomorrow’s severe weather risk?

Here is what happened at El Paso when the front backed into the area – Dewpoint jumped from 30F to 50F

– David Spritz

– Mr. Bean