Application of Satellite RGB Imagery by Operational Weather Forecast Offices for Analysis of Low-Level Precipitating Clouds

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Wednesday, 7 January 2015
Kevin K. Fuell, Univ. of Alabama, Huntsville, AL; and P. Nutter

The NASA/Short-term Prediction, Research, and Transition (SPoRT) Program has been providing unique Red-Green-Blue (RGB) composite imagery to its NWS operational partners since 2005. In the early years of activity these RGB products were related to a True Color RGB, showing what one's own eyes would see if looking down at earth from space, as well as a Snow-Cloud RGB (i.e. False Color), separating clouds from snow on the ground. More recently SPoRT has used the EUMETSAT Best Practices standards for RGB composites to transition a wide array of imagery for multiple uses, many of which are demonstrations of future geostationary imagers such as ABI on GOES-R.

The “Nighttime Microphysics” RGB imagery product was applied by the Albuquerque WFO to the analysis of cloud features where radar reflectivity had no precipitation occurring but surface observations indicated light rain. Independently, the Great Falls WFO also applied the Nighttime Microphysics RGB to identify precipitating clouds where radar showed no reflectivity during a similar evaluation project in Fall of 2013. Both WFO's areas of responsibility cover large regions with highly variable topography where radar coverage can be sparse, blocked, or beam height is well above the ground. The Night-time Microphysics RGB imagery via VIIRS and MODIS provides unique capabilities prior to the GOES-R era that are being evaluated by multiple user groups. However, the cloud microphysical analysis using the RGB imagery is not as intuitive as single channel visible or infrared imagery, and so far, only a limited number of users are proficient in applying these RGB products. SPoRT and the Great Falls WFO have begun to work toward a detailed analysis of the aforementioned precipitation cases. This presentation aims to discuss the operational application of the MODIS and VIIRS Nighttime Microphysics RGB imagery by the Great Falls and Albuquerque WFOs over several events to complement traditional data used to analyze low-level precipitating clouds and to prepare users for this new type of satellite imagery.