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In the News, Part II

by Terri Gregory, SSEC Public Information Coordinator
November 2001

Also In
the News...

Meetings and Outreach

In the Wings

This issue of In the News primarily covers September and October 2001. Please feel free to use images, with attribution to the Space Science and Engineering Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison (SSEC/UW–Madison), except where otherwise noted.

Weather Research

In the News

GOES-12 Science Checkout

Visible Sounder imageryGail Bayler (SSEC/CIMSS researcher), and NOAA researchers Gary Wade and Tim Schmit are making visible data available from the GOES-12 sounder instrument. GOES-12 is the newest U.S. GOES and is currently undergoing checkout and testing.

GOES-12 Sounder image
Clicking on the image brings up a comparison of GOES-12 and GOES-8 sounder images.

Sounder channels—During the current science test period (23 September-27 October 2001) for the recently launched Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES)-12, Gary Wade (NOAA) posted hourly displays of all 19 Sounder channels on the Web. The imagery covers the central and eastern United States. Options include animations over the last 24 hours as well as comparisons between commonly remapped displays from both GOES-12 and GOES-8. This real-time capability provides ready monitoring for quick assessment of the quality and stability of the new sounder during this checkout and calibration period.

Radiance measurements from the GOES-12 Sounder instrument shows less striping than those from GOES-8 in band 15 (4.45 microns). GOES-12 radiances also generally agree with radiances from the GOES-8 Sounder. Tim Schmit (NOAA) and Scott Bachmeier are working on the science checkout of GOES-12, launched this summer.

The GOES-12 imager better depicted a mid-level water vapor signature associated with moderate turbulence than either operational GOES-8 or GOES-10 imager. GOES-12 has the advantage of the best viewing angle of this feature and this band senses a slightly lower portion of the atmosphere. This imager also has a greater spatial resolution in this band.

GOES-12 Data Products—Gary Wade (NOAA) is routinely plotting preliminary severe weather reports from the Storm Prediction Center for the most recent 24-hour period ending at 1200 UTC (6 p.m. Central Time) over product images derived from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Sounders. Derived Product Images (DPI) for atmospheric stability (lifted index) at 2200 UTC and for moisture (total precipitable water) at 0000 UTC represent typical conditions prior to strong convection. The intent is to provide a quick, yet simple qualitative assessment of correlation that exists between these basic meteorological fields depicted in the DPI and later severe weather.

Banding bias—On the advice of CIMSS and NOAA researchers at SSEC, the Satellite Operations Control Center (SOCC) enabled Bias Mode 2 on the GOES-12 sounder (October 11). Mat Gunshor (SSEC/CIMSS) and Tim Schmit (ASPT) compared GOES sounder bands 12 and 15 before and after the change and verified that switching bias modes eliminated banding.

GOES-12 image with banding
This image shows banding before Bias Mode 2 was used. Click on it to see the transformation.

Infrared calibration bias factors may vary as the temperature of instrument optical components vary; between space looks this variation may appear as banding in the imagery. In Bias Mode 2 the standard algorithm is extended to minimize the impact of the variations in the bias as a function of optics temperatures. Both GOES-8 and GOES-10 sounders are operated under bias mode 2.

Satellite Data Products

Wind measurements—Chris Velden, SSEC/CIMSS, and Jeff Key, NOAA, provided a 10-day data set of satellite-derived winds over the Arctic and Antarctic to the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (ECMWF), NASA’s Data Assimilation Office (DAO), and the U.S. Navy. The wind measurements are derived from MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data by tracking clouds and water vapor features with the same method as that used for geostationary satellite data. The ECMWF, the DAO, and the Navy will use the data set to determine to what extent the inclusion of wind information in these data sparse regions affects weather forecasts.

Seeing snow—Tony Schreiner and Scott Bachmeier (CIMSS) and Tim Schmit (NOAA) developed a technique to identify snow during the day time, when it often looks like cloud on satellite imagery. The procedure uses visible and shortwave infrared bands of the GOES Sounder. After incorporating the technique into the CIMSS current GOES sounder cloud mask, comparisons using last winter’s data showed improvement over the routine sounder cloud product.

Clouds and snow
The gray slash diagonally across the satellite image could be cloud or could be snow. Click to see the larger image that shows what it is and how researchers can tell.

Cloud-top product—The Weather Flight Commander at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois is using the experimental GOES Sounder Cloud Top Pressure product developed by Tony Schreiner. It is used to determine if a tanker mission will have clouds at flight level in the aerial refueling track. The two aircraft need good visibility and are hindered by clouds. The Weather Flight Commander has expressed an interest in a product with more extensive spatial coverage. CIMSS and ASPT personnel are working to improve product availability.

A world of cloud tops—Tony Schreiner also has produced a nearly full disk (North and South America) image of cloud-top pressure from GOES-12 Imager data. This product has a great number of potential uses, ranging from numerical weather prediction to aviation weather interests. In general, this imager-based product also correlates well with the product produced from the full complement of GOES Sounder bands.

Earth with cloud tops
The earth with cloud tops superposed. Click for a larger image with legend.

Monitoring biomass burning

Biomass burning activities for this year are below average in South America, according to daily fire, smoke, and cloud products derived from GOES-8 data for the 2001 fire season by researchers Joleen Feltz (SSEC/CIMSS) and Elaine Prins (NOAA/ASPT). New weekly composites of GOES-derived aerosol and opaque cloud coverage give an overview of the prevalence of smoke and opaque clouds throughout South America and the South Atlantic Ocean.

Composite of smoke over South America
This weekly composite shows the percent of smoke coverage at about 5 a.m. from August 27 through September 2, 2001, using the GOES-8 Merged Automated Cloud/Aerosol Detection Algorithm (MACADA). The highest percentage of smoke coverage is located along the border of Brazil and Bolivia reflecting the general flow pattern. Over 1.3 million square km were covered by smoke in this region 50% of the time.

Wildfire monitoring—For the first time annual cumulative fire composites have been created from GOES-8 half-hourly imagery using the Wildfire Automated Biomass Burning Algorithm (WF_ABBA). Previously, the composites were generated every 3 hours. The composites for North and South America show the distribution of biomass burning associated with wildfires and agricultural applications. Nearly 70% of all fire pixels displayed in the composites were located in South America, 16% were identified in North America, and 14% were located in Central America. Elaine Prins (NOAA) and Chris Schmidt (CIMSS) generated these composites as part of an interdisciplinary effort to characterize the spatial and temporal distribution of fires in various biomes for hazards and climate change applications.

Annual fires 9-1-2000 through 8-31-2000
GOES-8 Wildfire ABBA composite of fire pixels detected half-hourly for North and Central America for the time period September 1, 2000 through August 31, 2001. Click for the whole image.

A preliminary version of the Wildfire ABBA is scheduled to be transferred to operations in the Office of Satellite Data Processing and Distribution in December 2001.

Other Research

Polar products— Jeff Key (ASPT team leader) is computing daily surface, cloud, and radiation properties over the Arctic and Antarctic with data from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instrument on the polar-orbiting satellite NOAA-16. Derived parameters include surface temperature and albedo, cloud amount, optical depth, particle phase, effective radius, and temperature, radiation fluxes, and cloud forcing. This new experimental product is available in near real time.

Gravity waves—While observing Tropical Depression Juliette, the CIMSS Tropical Cyclones group noticed a “train of gravity waves propagating westward across the Pacific Ocean between Baja California and Isla Guadalupe, Mexico on 30 September, 2001 (S.Bachmeier, GOES Gallery).” According to team leader Chris Velden, wave clouds emanated from a rotating outer band of cloud that passed over the local mountain range on the Baja Penninsula, which may have enhanced the phenomenon. When watching the animation, note the von Karman vortices (subtle curlicue cloud formations that “look like they were penciled into the clouds”) that form south of the island off the coast.

Meetings and Outreach

AMS Conference—The American Meteorological Society held the 11th annual conference on satellite meteorology and oceanography at Madison’s Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center October 15-18. Two hundred eighty-seven researchers attended from around the world. Scientists from the Advanced Satellite Products Team (ASPT) and Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies at SSEC presented more than 40 posters. Students Eric Bayler and Shaima Nasiri won two of the five awards for best student posters. Attendee David Ball noted, “What they did differently from other AMS conferences I’ve been to in the past was reduce drastically the number of speakers. Instead, the lion’s share of the conference consisted of poster sessions that allowed one to focus on particular areas of interest. Invited speakers were given 30 to 45 minutes to present their work to the crowd, which is much better than the normal 15 [minutes].”

ETheater presentation—The conference also hosted NASA’s Electronic Theater, created by A. Frederick “Fritz” Hasler of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Hasler and Steve Ackerman (AOS professor and CIMSS director) presented the ETheater to four groups of middle and high school students totaling 5500 and a group of about 425 families and conference attendees. Madison native Hasler, who has presented the ETheater for years, said that, in aggregate, this was his largest audience ever. It was also the first time that the AMS had included a public presentation in a conference. Thanks to the unique ability of Monona Terrace to accommodate both, the two aspects meshed seamlessly.

Busses deliver school children
School busses delivered students directly into the exhibition hall at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center for a morning showing of the Electronic Theater.

UW–Madison’s Office of Communications announced the presentation on October 4 and published it in the University Daybook for October 13-20. Justin Williams of Madison’s WMTV-Channel 15 covered the Wednesday afternoon show presented for school children.

In the Wings

E.Fitzgerald broadcast—Steve Ackerman and John Knox (AOS) will appear on WCCO-AM radio early Saturday morning, the anniversary of the sinking of the ore ship Edmund Fitzgerald. Ackerman and Knox analyzed the weather conditions at the time the ship was lost and will share their insights with listeners to the late night show. The CBS-owned WCCO Radio is a clear channel (50-thousand watts) station operating at 830 AM. It has a night-time coverage area of some 35 states and about 250,000 listeners from across the country. WCCO (News/Talk) can be found on the Internet at

Direct comments, questions, and information about other SSEC media appearances to SSEC's Public Information Officer. For information about past media appearances and project activities, visit the SSEC Media page.

10-9-01 TG