Brightness Temperature Differences over the Rockies


The heritage brightness temperature difference method of detecting fog/low stratus works because clouds that are comprised of liquid water droplets have different emissivity properties at 3.9 µm and at 10.7 µm. Clouds are not black-body emitters at 3.9 µm; they are more closely blackbody emitters at 10.7 µm. Consequently, the 3.9 µm radiance detected by the satellite suggests a cooler emitting blackbody temperature than the 10.7 µm radiance detected by the satellite. The difference between those two temperatures therefore highlights water-based clouds.

Some soils over the western US also have emissivity properties that are a function of wavelength such that the brightness temperature difference product will show a maximum in some regions but not in others. A careless interpretation of the brightness temperature difference signal, then, might lead to an erroneous assumption that fog/low clouds are present in a region of clear skies. The loop above shows the brightness temperature difference field at 0930 UTC on 19 September, and there are many regions with a signal that is consistent with fog/low clouds. The GOES-R IFR Probability algorithm correctly screens out many of these regions because the Rapid Refresh data does not predict low-level saturation. The day-night band image from Suomi/NPP can be used to verify where low clouds are present, and the image shows that most of the western US was clear. The IFR Probability field has false positives in 4 locations: extreme northeastern Arizona, Northwestern Mexico just to the east of the Colorado River, and two patches in the Pacific, one west of northern California, and one west of southern California.

Brightness Temperature Difference signals sometimes show positives over the central and eastern US in cases of extreme drought, as shown here.