The Future of Satellite Moisture Analysis


Brian Guyer & Brent Wachter
NWS Albuquerque


The Albuquerque NWS office entered a collaborative partnership with NASA's Short-term Prediction and Research Transition Center (SPoRT) in 2007.  The NASA SPoRT program focuses on the use of advanced NASA modeling and data assimilation techniques, nowcasting, and unique high-resolution multispectral observational data from Earth observing satellites to improve short-term weather prediction.  This collaboration has placed various NWS partners and university programs at the forefront to the future of advanced satellite analysis.  The most recent evaluation focuses on a suite of Red-Green-Blue (RGB) composite products developed by SPoRT and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meterological Satellites (EUMETSAT).  These composite products use the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) as a proxy to future GOES-R capabilities.  The RGB proxy products focus on creating RGB imagery to depict air mass, dust, cloud microphysics, fog/stratus, snow, and true color.

Evaluation of the RGB air mass product and its applications to improving fire weather forecasting is a current focus at the Albuquerque NWS.  Specifically, we are evaluating how the RGB air mass product can improve the detection of two critical fire weather patterns; mid-level dry intrusions originating from the eastern Pacific Ocean and dynamic dry-slots in association with mid-latitude cyclones.  The image below is an RGB air mass product valid at 215pm May 2, 2012.  The yellow line differentiates where the MODIS RGB product (left) has been stitched into the current GOES water vapor product (right).  The various color combinations in the RGB product point to key characteristics in the atmospheric moisture profile that provide an enhanced layer of information to the forecaster.  Shades of red will favor dry upper level regions, blue shades upper level moist regions, and green shades moist, tropical regions.  In the example a large swath of dry air dominates much of the southwestern United States and Texas.  The dark blue colors across New Mexico are a weak reflection of a thin moisture layer around 16,000 feet, therefore subtracting some of the contribution of the shades of red.  Given the sensitivity to fire behavior with long term drought conditions during critically dry air masses, this imagery has the potential to provide a more detailed understanding of how these dry patterns impact our area.  More importantly, once this imagery is available from GOES-R it will provide continuous tracking of critically dry air mass features and increase lead time prior to significant fire weather events.


You can read more about NASA SPoRT, GOES-R, MODIS, and EUTMETSAT at the following websites.


Return to the 2012 Annual Fire Weather Summary


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