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A Satellite Perspective of the February 5–6 2010 Snowstorm impacting the Mid Atlantic Region

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Thursday, 27 January 2011
A Satellite Perspective of the February 5–6 2010 Snowstorm impacting the Mid Atlantic Region
Joshua Charles Jankot, NOAA/NESDIS, Camp Springs, MD

The NOAA Satellite and Information Service's (NESDIS) Satellite Analysis Branch (SAB) provides operational support to National Weather Service(NWS) forecasters by providing interpretive satellite text messages and graphics to help assist forecast offices in hydro-meteorological hazards such as heavy rain, flash flooding, and heavy snow. This case study evaluates the February 5-6 snowstorm that paralyzed the Mid Atlantic region of the United States (U.S) by looking at the evolution and development of the cyclone from a satellite perspective. Guidance provided by the SAB to NWS offices during the event will be reviewed to determine accuracy and utility and ascertain possible areas of improvement for the future. Satellite products that will be reviewed in detail include the GOES-12 visible, Infrared (IR), and 6.7 micron water vapor channel imagery and the NESDIS Blended TPW (Kusselson, et al., 2009) product. Other variables to be looked at include the surface to 250 hPa analyses, surface hourly observations for surrounding stations, and radar data. The evolution of the storm will be compared to previous satellite operational research to assess if the storm developed in a similar fashion to other storms (ie Kocin and Uccellini 2004).

Preliminary findings show that the development of the February 5-6 cyclone followed a classic frontal wave cyclone model with the warm conveyor belt interacting with a cold conveyor and dry airstream to produce a comma head pattern seen in satellite imagery. Heaviest snow rates were observed over the Mid-Atlantic in the “transition” region between lower and higher cloud features just south of the comma head feature between 0 UTC and 18 UTC on February 6, similar to studies conducted by (Beckman 1987) and others. A notable feature that was observed and will be shown was a huge plume of moisture that originated in the tropical eastern Pacific nosing into the Southeast U.S. and which is rarely seen, to this degree, in winter months.