4.4 River Ice and Flood Detection Products Derived from Suomi NPP VIIRS Satellite Data to Support 2015 Hydrologic Forecast Operations in Alaska

Tuesday, 12 January 2016: 2:15 PM
Room 242 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Melissa Kreller, NOAA/NWSFO, Fairbanks, AK; and E. W. Plumb, E. Holloway, and S. Li

A lack of river ice data during spring break-up in Alaska creates many forecast challenges for National Weather Service (NWS) forecasters. Limited and infrequent ice conditions and flood observations are provided by river observers, community officials, and pilots. Although these observations are invaluable, there are extensive spatial and temporal data gaps across Alaska during spring break-up. The Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite imagery has proved to be an extremely beneficial situational awareness and decision support tool for NWS forecast operations. In particular, the VIIRS satellite imagery became highly effective in identifying extensive flooding of many Alaskan rivers due to ice jams during the 2013 spring breakup season. A devastating ice jam flood in the Yukon River community of Galena prompted the development of river ice and flood detection products derived from the VIIRS satellite imagery with the support of the Joint Polar Satellite System/Proving Ground and Risk Reduction (JPSS/PGRR) Program. The two new products from S-NPP/VIIRS imagery provided critical decision making information to NWS forecasters responsible for issuing flood warnings for the region.

Since 2013, the NWS continues to evaluate the use of these products in an operational forecast setting, and has expanded the evaluation period to include summertime flooding. There are limitations of these products due to cloud cover, sun zenith angles, product validation, and other issues unique to Alaska. The NWS will continue to provide feedback to the JPSS/PGRR Program in order to further refine and improve the algorithms used to create the river ice and flood detection products. This presentation will demonstrate how these products have been integrated into the NWS forecast process for several types of flood events in Alaska.

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