Category Archives: Plains

Dense Fog over the Texas High Plains

GOES-R IFR Probability fields, hourly from 0215-1115 UTC on 2 August 2017 (Click to enlarge)

GOES-R IFR Probabilities are computed using Legacy GOES (GOES-13 and GOES-15) and Rapid Refresh model information; GOES-16 data will be incorporated into the IFR Probability algorithm in late 2017

The National Weather Service in Lubbock issued Dense Fog Advisories (below) for parts of their CWA early in the morning on 2 August 2017.  GOES-R IFR Probability fields, above, show a slow increase in values over west Texas during the night of 1-2 August 2017, as visibilities drop and ceilings lower in the region.  This followed a band of showers that moved through the area around sunset on 1 August (Click here for a visible image from 0017 UTC on 2 August, from this site).  Highest IFR Probability values at the end of the animation generally overlay the Dense Fog Advisory.  As a situational awareness tool for the developing fog/low stratus, IFR Probability performed well.


GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational and are undergoing testing

GOES-16 Brightness Temperature Difference field (10.3 µm – 3.9 µm) at 1117 UTC on 2 August 2017 (Click to enlarge)

The GOES-R IFR Probability fields above mostly show the small-scale variability (i.e., pixelation) that is common when both (legacy) GOES data and Rapid Refresh Data are used to produce a probability that IFR conditions will be present.  Some exceptions:  southeastern New Mexico at the end of animation (1115 UTC);  the yellow and orange region there overlain by mid-level or high clouds that prevent a satellite view of the low clouds.  The GOES-16 Brightness Temperature Difference (10.3 µm – 3.9 µm) field at 1117 UTC shows a signal of high clouds there (cyan / blue / purple enhancement showing negative values that typify thin cirrus in the Brightness Temperature Difference field at night).  The Green values in the color enhancement are positive values and correspond to stratus (composed of water droplets) clouds.  Because the Brightness Temperature Difference field shows a signal, the Advanced Nighttime Microphysics RGB will also have a signal for fog (the whitish/cyan color), as shown below.

GOES-16’s better temporal and spatial resolution allow for more accurate monitoring of the development of small-scale features.  However, the shortcomings of using a Brightness Temperature Difference from satellite to monitor fog development should not be forgotten:  In regions of cirrus, satellite views of low stratus and fog are blocked.  In addition, over Texas and the rest of the High Plains, upslope flow can generate stratus over the central Plains that becomes fog over the High Plains as the terrain rises into the clouds.  The top of the stratus cloud and the fog bank in such a case can look very similar from satellite.

Advanced Microphysics RGB Composite at 1117 UTC on 2 August 2017 (Click to enlarge)

Below is a toggle between the 1115 UTC IFR Probability field, the GOES16 Brightness Temperature Difference Field, and the GOES16 Advanced Microphysics RGB Composite.

GOES-R IFR Probability fields computed with legacy GOES data and Rapid Refresh model output, GOES-16 Brightness Temperature Difference (10.3 µm – 3.9 µm) field and GOES-16 Advanced Microphysics RGB, all near 1115 UTC on 2 August 2017 (Click to enlarge)


Low IFR and IFR Conditions over the central United States

Note: GOES-R IFR Probabities continue to be computed with GOES-13 and GOES-15 data only. Incorporation of GOES-16 data will occur near the end of 2017.

Front Page from the Aviation Weather Center webpage ( at 1155 UTC 3 April 2017. Stations with IFR / LIFR conditions are indicated by red / magenta. (Click to enlarge)

A wide swath of Dense Fog Advisories were hoisted over the central part of the United States on Monday 3 April 2017 in association with southerly flow and a variety of fronts. The Aviation Weather Center front page (screen-captured, as shown above), showed Low IFR and IFR conditions throughout the central Plains.

The development of the Low IFR Conditions coincided with an increase in Low IFR Probabilities during the night, as shown by the stepped animation below showing data from 0200, 0500 and 0915 UTC. Low IFR Probabilities over Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, part of a smooth yellow field, are driven solely by Rapid Refresh Data in a region where high and mid-level clouds are preventing the satellite from observing low clouds.

GOES-R Low IFR Probabilities at 0200, 0500, 0915 UTC on 3 April 2017 (Click to enlarge)

GOES-R IFR Probabilities, below, generally cover the same region as Low IFR Probabilities shown above, but have larger values. As with the Low IFR Probabilities, model data only are determining the probabilities over much of Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas, a region where the probability field is uniform and flat, especially at the end of the animation.

GOES-R IFR Probabilities at 0200, 0500, 0915 UTC on 3 April 2017 (Click to enlarge)

GOES-R Low IFR Probability is shown below with surface observations superimposed. There is a good relationship between high probabilities and observed IFR and Low IFR conditions.

GOES-R IFR Probability fields, 0945 UTC on 3 April 2017 along with surface observations of ceilings and visibilities at 1000 UTC (Click to enlarge)

Note: GOES-R IFR Probabities continue to be computed with GOES-13 and GOES-15 data only. Incorporation of GOES-16 data will occur near the end of 2017.

Fog over Kansas

GOES-R IFR Probability fields, 1345 UTC on 6 February 2017, along with 1400 UTC surface observations of ceilings and visibilities (Click to enlarge)

Dense Fog Advisories were issued for much of central Kansas early on 6 February 2017.  This was an example of how GOES-R IFR Probability fields (above) can help identify regions of dense fog when high clouds prevent satellite detection of low clouds.  The brightness temperature difference field, below, shows high clouds over much of Kansas — it’s therefore very difficult to relate cloud signatures to obstructions to visibility near the surface.  In contrast, IFR Probability fields, above, use saturation in the lowest part of the Rapid Refresh Model and capably highlight regions where fog/low ceilings are occurring.

Brightness Temperature DIfference field (3.9µm – 10.7µm) at 1345 UTC on 6 February 2017, along with surface observations of ceilings and visibility (Click to enlarge)

Ice Fog in Kansas City

GOES-R IFR Probabilities, hourly from 0115 through 1815 UTC, and surface observations of ceilings and visibilities, on 18 January 2017 (Click to enlarge)

Ice Fog developed over Kansas City during the early morning hours of 18 January 2017, with accidents that snarled traffic (tweeted image courtesy @DrWxologist Chad Gravelle)  starting before sunrise and continuing through the morning rush hour  (Screenshot of News link from here).    Dense Fog Advisories were issued.  The animation above, of GOES-R IFR Probability fields, shows the slow westward progression of the Fog/Low Clouds into the Kansas City Metro area shortly after 4 AM CST.  High IFR Probabilities persist through 1800 UTC and diminished shortly thereafter.

During this case, an absence of mid-level and high clouds allowed IFR Probabilities to reach very large values.  The toggle below shows Brightness Temperature Difference fields (3.9 – 10.7) and GOES-R IFR Probabilities at 1115 UTC.  Low clouds cover Missouri except for the region over the Missouri Bootheel.  Note that the western edge of the satellite-detected low clouds is slightly to the east of the western edge of the IFR Probability in this case.  Model data are suggesting that low-level saturation is occurring in those regions (over far southwest Iowa, for example) although satellite data were not yet showing a strong signal.  Observations show IFR conditions (at Clarinda, Iowa, for example, where freezing fog is reported with 200-foot ceilings and 1/4-mile visibility).

Widespread IFR Conditions over the Plains

GOES-R IFR Probability Fields, hourly from 0115-1315 UTC (Click to enlarge)

A cyclone over the southern Plains, in addition to causing severe weather over Texas on 15 January also generated widespread IFR Conditions over the southern Plains, as shown below in screengrabs from the Aviation Weather Center and from the National Weather Service. An overnight Water Vapor image (here) testifies to the ubiquitous presence of high clouds over the Plains; in such cases with widespread high clouds, low-cloud detection by satellite is a big problem. A strength of the GOES-R IFR Probability field is that it is a fused data product, incorporating both satellite information (not particularly useful for much of the overnight hours on 15-16 January) and Rapid Refresh model data that can be used to discern conditions near the surface. When the Rapid Refresh model suggests saturation is occurring near the surface (in, say, the lowest 1000 feet of the model atmosphere), IFR Probabilities will be large. They won’t be as large as they might be if both satellite and model data suggest low clouds are present, but useful information emerges in the IFR Probability fields, above, where the Rapid Refresh is predicting low-level saturation. IFR Probabilities are large over much of the southern Plains where IFR conditions are observed. This is the region where the color enhancement is orange.

The low pressure system develops such that high clouds diminish over Texas and Oklahoma. When that happens, the IFR Probability fields change in two ways. First, values increase because satellite data and model data can be used as predictors. When only model data can be used, IFR Probability fields will have smaller values. Secondly, the character of the IFR Probability field takes on a more pixelated appearance because the satellite data values will vary from pixel to pixel. In contrast, when only model data can drive the IFR Probability field (for example, over Kansas at the beginning of the animation), the IFR Probability fields vary quite slowly from pixel to pixel in part because of model smoothing.

Screen Capture from Aviation Weather Center (left, showing widespread IFR Conditions) and from Weather.Gov (right, showing Dense Fog Advisories in grey) (Click to enlarge)

The toggle below includes sampling over Abilene, TX (KABI), a station at the edge of the IFR Probability field. IFR Probabilities are relatively constant at ~40% for the two hours shown, but station conditions change from IFR to VFR. IFR Probabilities at Abilene become quite small by 1315 UTC, at the end of the animation above.

GOES-R IFR Probability at 1015 and 1215 UTC on 16 January 2017. Station conditions at KABI are indicated by the sample probe (Click to enlarge)

Persistent IFR Conditions over Kansas

GOES-R IFR Probability fields, 0400-1700 UTC on 2 January 2017 (Click to enlarge)

Late in the morning on Monday 2 January 2017, the website shows Dense Fog Advisories persisting in parts of Kansas and Nebraska.  The animation above shows GOES-R IFR Probabilities from 0400 through 1700 UTC on the 2nd. High IFR Probabilities show excellent correspondence with very low ceilings and reduced visibilities. Note, for example, the sharp demarcation at 1700 UTC between IFR conditions (and large IFR Probabilities) and VFR/MVFR conditions (and very low IFR Probabilities) over northwestern Kansas/east central Colorado.

In the animation above, large parts of central Kansas have IFR Probabilities that are uniform, and around 52% (indicated by the mustard orange color). The IFR Probability field has this character at that time — and later in the animation over much of eastern Kansas and Missouri/Iowa — because of high clouds that are present. When high clouds prevent the satellite from viewing low clouds, model data in the form of Rapid Refresh estimates of low-level saturation are the driving force behind the IFR Probability value. The animation below of Brightness Temperature Difference fields shows the characteristic dark streak that in the enhancement used represents high clouds at night. High clouds then spread over Missouri and Iowa during the day.

GOES-13 Brightness Temperature Difference fields (3.9 µm – 10.7 µm), 0400-1700 UTC on 2 January 2017 (Click to enlarge)

GOES-R Cloud Thickness can be used in cases of radiation fog to estimate dissipation time, using the value just before sunrise, here, and this scatterplot. Low clouds on 2 January however were synoptically forced so it would be inappropriate to expect the GOES-R Cloud Thickness field to estimate dissipation times correctly.

Fog and Ice Fog over the southern Plains


GOES-R IFR Probabilities, hourly from 0400 through 1215 UTC on 5 December 2016 (Click to enlarge)

Dense Fog developed over the southern Plains early on Monday 5 December, and the GOES-R IFR Probability fields, above, were a tool that could be used to monitor the evolution of this event. A challenge presented on this date was the widespread cirrus (Here’s the 0700 UTC GOES-13 Water Vapor (6.5 µm) Image, for example) that prevented satellite detection of low clouds. The Brightness Temperature Difference fields, below, at 3-hourly intervals, also show a signature (dark grey/black in the enhancement used) of high clouds, although they are shifting east with time — by 1300 UTC there is a signature (orange/yellow in the enhancement used) of stratus clouds over central and eastern Oklahoma.

The IFR Probability fields, above, have a characteristic flat nature over Arkansas and Missouri, that is, a uniformity to the field, that is typical when model data are driving the probabilities. The more pixelated nature to the fields over Kansas and Oklahoma, especially near the end of the animation, typifies what the fields look like when both satellite data and model data are driving the computation of probabilities. Careful inspection of the fields over Arkansas shows regions — around Fayetteville, for example, around 1000 UTC where IFR Probabilities are too low given the observation at the airport of IFR conditions. This inconsistency gives information on either the small-scale nature of the fog (unlikely in this case) or on the accuracy of the Rapid Refresh model simulation that is contributing to the probabilities. In general, the Rapid Refresh model has accurately captured this event, and therefore the IFR Probabilities are mostly overlapping regions of IFR or near-IFR conditions. The region over southern Illinois that has stratus, and low probabilities of IFR conditions, for example. Adjacent regions have higher IFR Probabilities and lower ceilings and/or reduced visibilities. A screen shot from the National Weather Service, and from the Aviation Weather Center, at about 1300 UTC document the advisories that were issued for this event.


Brightness Temperature Difference fields (3.9 µm – 10.7 µm), 0400, 0700, 1000 and 1300 UTC on 5 December 2016 (Click to enlarge)

IFR Probability Motion as a forecast tool


GOES-R IFR Probability Fields, 0200-1400 UTC on 13 October 2016 along with surface observations of ceilings/visibility (Click to enlarge)

Because GOES-R IFR Probability fields are computed with the same time latency as GOES imagery, motion of the IFR Probability fields can have predictive value.  In the animation above, higher GOES-R IFR Probability  is moving eastward;  IFR Conditions are reported as the higher IFR conditions move overhead (consider, for example, Bowling Green, KY, or Clarksville, TN), and ceilings / visibilities improve as the band of higher IFR conditions moves eastward from a station (over southern Illinois, for example).

Fog over northeast Colorado backs into Denver International


GOES-R IFR Probability Fields, 1437 UTC on 31 August 2016, with surface observations of ceilings and visibilities (Click to enlarge)

GOES-R IFR Probability Fields over Colorado and Nebraska on the morning of 31 August 2016 show high IFR Probabilities in close proximity to Denver International Airport (DIA), which airport was reporting IFR conditions starting at 1237 UTC. Webcams to the southwest and northeast of the airport shortly after 1500 UTC confirm that the IFR conditions’ edge was very near the airport.

The hourly animation of GOES-R IFR Probability fields, below, shows the evolution of the field. Its motion could be used in a prognostic manner.


GOES-R IFR Probability fields, ~hourly from 0400 through 1400 UTC on 31 August 2016 (Click to enlarge). Surface observations of ceilings and visibility are also plotted.

A similar event occurred on 22 September, see below from Mike Eckert and Amanda Terborg.09222016-den_fog

IFR Probabilities and SRSO-R Visible Imagery over Nebraska


GOES-R IFR Probability, hourly from 0600 through 1400 UTC on 9 August 2016 [Click to enlarge]

GOES-R IFR Probabilities show the development of IFR-producing stratus and fog over central and western Nebraska between midnight and dawn on 9 August 2016. The character of the field suggests that satellite data and Rapid Refresh Model output are both contributing to IFR Probability fields; IFR Probability fields will look far flatter in appearance (just one color) when model fields only are used.

When the Sun rises, the predictors that are used to compute IFR Probabilities change, and that change is evident in the 1245 UTC image below.  Night-time predictors are being used to the west of the obvious boundary through central Nebraska, and day-time predictors are being used to the east.  It’s more common for IFR Probability values to increase when Day-Time predictors are used, but on 9 August values decreased.  (You can see from the animation above that the IFR Probability values subsequently rebounded)


GOES-R IFR Probability at 1245 UTC on 9 August 2016 [Click to enlarge]

GOES-R Cloud Thickness can be used to estimate when fog/low stratus will dissipate (using this scatterplot).   The image below shows the last Cloud Thickness before twilight conditions (during twilight conditions, GOES-R Cloud Thickness is not computed — over Nebraska at this time of year, that’s generally about 2 hours starting around 1145 UTC).  The largest values are around 1280 feet, which corresponds to a dissipation time of more than four hours, meaning the fog/low clouds should persist to at least 1530 UTC!


GOES-R Cloud Thickness just before Twilight Conditions over Nebraska, 1130 UTC on 9 August [Click to enlarge]

GOES-14 was observing Nebraska at 1-minute intervals on 9 August, as part of GOES-14’s SRSO-R. The animation from dawn (~1204) through 1610 UTC is below. Fog Dissipation is mostly complete by 1600 UTC.


GOES-14 Visible Imagery (0.62 µm) from 1204-1610 UTC [Click to view very large animation]