Detecting stratus at night, and thereby inferring the presence of fog, usually involves the Night Fog Brightness Temperature Difference (10.3 µm – 3.9 µm) field that identifies clouds made up of water droplets owing to the droplets’ different emissivity properties at 10.3 µm (droplets emit energy at that wavelength mostly as a blackbody) and at 3.9 µm (droplets do no emit energy at that wavelength as a blackbody). This difference field is a crucial component in the Night Time Microphysics Red-Green-Blue (RGB) Product as evinced in the toggle above. The regions shown to have low clouds (blue and cyan in the Brightness Temperature Difference field, pale yellow in the RGB) are not necessarily those regions with IFR conditions, i.e., where fog and low ceilings are present. The satellite can sense the top of the cloud, but it is a challenge to infer from the satellite data alone where the cloud base sits.
GOES-R IFR Probability fields combine satellite information with model estimates of low-level saturation. An accurate model simulation can allow the product to highlight regions of low ceilings (where fog is more likely) and screen out mid-level stratus. Consider the toggle below, and note how is emphasizes regions where observations show low ceilings and/or reduced visibilities (Blue Canyon airport northwest of Lake Tahoe and Paso Robles airport). Note also how the signal at Bakersfield, at the southern end of California’s Central Valley, is de-emphasized.
GOES-R IFR Probability fields provide a consistent signal for low ceilings and reduced visibility. The fields marry the strengths of satellite detection and model data.
The Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) is (as noted in this blog post) testing GOES-17 IFR Probability fields in the AWIPS environment in preparation for their deployment to interested offices (via an LDM feed). The GOES-17 field, above, at 1106 UTC, suggests stratus offshore of San Francisco but higher ceilings over the city and the bay. Webcam views of the city (source), and of Alcatraz Island (source), below, from around 630 AM PST, also suggest relatively high ceilings over the city and the bay.
GOES-16 is also providing IFR Probability over the west coast of the United States. The toggle below between GOES-17 and GOES-16 shows how the oblique view from GOES-16 and the effects of parallax can perhaps place the probability in the wrong place. Parallax errors shift the clouds towards the sub-satellite point. Parallax effects can be explored at this website.
The GOES-17 Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI) is currently showing the effects of inadequate imager cooling by the faulty Loop Heat Pipe on board the spacecraft. At times between 1100 and 1500 UTC, as shown below for 1401 UTC, stripes will appear in the IFR Probability field. Manifestations of the Loop Heat Pipe issue will continue with increasing impact into early March, at which time Eclipse Season will mitigate the issue until April.
GOES-17 IFR Probability fields are available over the CONUS domain at this website.
The animation above, of GOES-16 IFR Probability, shows high IFR values in regions over western Washington and Oregon, and those high values correlate spatially very well with surface observations of low ceilings and reduced visibilities.b You will note a couple things in the animation: The field is mostly stationary, with slight adjustments on every hour. Those small changes reflect the change in the model fields (hourly Rapid Refresh) that are used to complement satellite estimates of low clouds in the computation of IFR Probabilities.
On this day, the satellite did not view many low clouds (some are apparent in southwestern Oregon). The flat field (vs. the more pixelated view over southwest OR, and also occasionally in the west-northwest flow coming in off the Pacific) suggests only model data are being used. The stepwise changes on the hour also suggest that.
The animation of the Night Fog Brightness Temperature Difference (10.3 µm – 3.9 µm) field, below, has a signal that is consistent with the lack of observed stratus over the coastal Pacific Northwest. Note also how the Night Fog Brightness temperature difference field flips sign as the Sun comes up and the 3.9 µm signal becomes larger due to reflected solar radiance with a wavelength of 3.9 µm.
GOES-16 views of the Pacific Northwest show fairly large pixel sizes. NOAA/CIMSS scientists have been creating GOES-17 IFR Probability for the past couple weeks, and this product will become available via an LDM field in the near future.