Ferguson Fire pyroCb in California

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, right) images [click to play MP4 animation]

* GOES-17 images shown here are preliminary and non-operational *

The Ferguson Fire in central California produced a pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud during the afternoon hours on 15 July 2018. GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed that the high-altitude portion of the pyroCb cloud then drifted northeastward toward the California/Nevada border, where cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures cooled to near -55ºC (orange enhancement) as it crossed the border around 0005 UTC on 16 July.

A comparison of Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm), GOES-17 (0.64 µm) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm) is shown below — with the imagery displayed in the native projection of each satellite. Images from GOES-16/17 are at 5-minute intervals, while images from GOES-15 are every 5-15 minutes depending on the operational scan schedule of that GOES-West satellite. GOES-17 was at its post-launch checkout position of 89.5ºW longitude, so it offered a more direct view of the pyroCb cloud.

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-17 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm, right) [click to play animation]

Visible images from GOES-15 (0.63 µm, left), GOES-17 (0.64 µm, center) and GOES-16 (0.64 µm, right) [click to play animation]

A toggle between NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images (below) showed the pyroCb cloud southwest of the California/Nevada border (between Bridgeport KBAN and Mammoth KMMH) at 2327 UTC. In spite of a minimum cloud-top 10.8 µm infrared brightness temperature of -59ºC (red enhancement), note the darker (warmer) appearance of the cloud on the 3.7 µm image — this is due to reflection of solar radiation off the smaller ice particles of the pyroCb anvil. The -59ºC temperature roughly corresponded to an altitude of 13 km or 42.6 kft on the 00 UTC Reno, Nevada rawinsonde report (plot | data)

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

A time lapse of the pyroCb was created by Sierra Fire Watch (below).

Time lapse [click to play YouTube video]

Time lapse [click to play YouTube video]

PyroCb in Colorado

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, left), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, right) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed the formation of a small pyroCb cloud spawned by the 416 Fire in southwestern Colorado on 09 June 2018. A Mesoscale Domain Sector was positioned over the region, providing images at 1-minute intervals.

On Shortwave Infrared imagery, the thermal anomaly or “hot spot” appeared as a large cluster of red pixels — and the top of the pyroCb cloud took on a darker gray appearance than nearby high-altitude ice crystal clouds (due to enhanced solar reflectance off the smaller ice crystals of the pyroCb anvil). On 10.3 µm imagery, cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures cooled to around -50ºC (bright yellow enhancement) as the pyroCb drifted northeastward.

NOAA-19 AVHRR Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images, with plots of 22 UTC surface reports [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 AVHRR Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images, with plots of 22 UTC surface reports [click to enlarge]

On 1-km resolution NOAA-19 AVHRR Infrared Window (10.8 µm) imagery at 22:07 UTC (above), the minimum cloud-top brightness temperature was -53ºC — this temperature roughly corresponded to an altitude of 11.6 km according to 00 UTC rawinsonde data from Grand Junction, Colorado (below).

Plots of rawinsonde data from Grand Junction, Colorado [click to enlarge]

Plots of rawinsonde data from Grand Junction, Colorado [click to enlarge]


PyroCb in Ontario, Canada

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed that Canadian wildfires burning along the Manitoba/Ontario border produced a pyroCb around 1930 UTC on 22 May 2018.

As the pyroCb moved southeastward over western Ontario, the coldest GOES-16 cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures were around -55ºC (orange enhancement), which corresponded to altitudes around 10.3 to 10.8 km according the rawinsonde data from Pickle Lake, Ontario (below).

Rawinsonde data profiles from Pickle Lake, Ontario [click to enlarge]

Rawinsonde data profiles from Pickle Lake, Ontario [click to enlarge]

In a comparison of 1-km resolution NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images at 2210 UTC (below), the minimum cloud-top infrared brightness temperature was -58.1ºC (darker orange enhancement), which roughly corresponded to altitudes of 10.6 to 11.0 km (just below the tropopause) on the Pickle Lake soundings.

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

NOAA-19 Visible (0.63 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.7 µm) and Infrared Window (10.8 µm) images [click to enlarge]

PyroCb in Texas

GOES-16

GOES-16 “Red” Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

A large pyroCumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud developed from the Mallard Fire in the Texas Panhandle on 11 May 2018, aided by warm temperatures and strong winds ahead of an approaching dryline (surface analyses). 1-minute Mesoscale Domain Sector GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above) showed the large thermal anomaly or “hot spot” (red 3.9 µm pixels) and the rapid development of the pyroCb cloud beginning shortly after 1900 UTC. Cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures cooled to -60 ºC — the tropopause temperature on the 00 UTC Amarillo sounding — by around 2130 UTC. On the Shortwave Infrared imagery, note the relatively warm (darker gray) appearance of the pyroCb cloud top — a characteristic signature of pyroCb anvils due to enhanced reflection of solar radiation off of smaller cloud-top particles.

4-panel comparisons of Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm) images at 1936 UTC and 2029 UTC (below) revealed that the maximum differences between 3.74 µm and 11.45 µm cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures — at the same location on the pyroCb anvil — were 86ºC (+26ºC and -59ºC at 1936 UTC) and 91.5ºC (+27.5ºC and -63ºC at 2029 UTC).

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm), Near-Infrared

Suomi NPP VIIRS Visible (0.64 µm, upper left), Near-Infrared “Snow/Ice” (1.61 µm, upper right), Shortwave Infrared (3.74 µm, lower left) and Infrared Window (11.45 µm, lower right) images at 1936 UTC and 2029 UTC [click to enlarge]

Lightning was detected from portions of the smoke plume, as well as the core of the pyroCb thunderstorm.

After dark, the thermal signature of the Mallard Fire was also apparent on GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cloud particle size” (2.24 µm) imagery (below).

GOES-16 Near-Infrared

GOES-16 Near-Infrared “Cloud particle size” (2.24 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom) images, with hourly plots of surface reports [click to play MP4 animation]

===== 12 May Update =====

Terra MODIS True-color and False-color images [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS True-color and False-color images [click to enlarge]

In a comparison of 250-meter resolution Terra MODIS True-color and False-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images from the MODIS Today site (above), the Mallard Fire burn scar was evident in the False-color. Both images showed a smoke plume from ongoing fire activity, which was drifting northward across the Texas Panhandle.

The corresponding Terra MODIS Land Surface Temperature product (below) indicated that LST values within the burn scar were as high as 137ºF (darker red enhancement), in contrast to values around 100ºF adjacent to the burn scar.

Terra MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

Terra MODIS Land Surface Temperature product [click to enlarge]

PyroCb in Argentina

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images [click to play animation]

GOES-16 Visible (0.64 µm, top), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm, center) and Infrared Window (10.3 µm, bottom) images [click to play animation]

A large cluster of fires burning in central Argentina became hot enough to generate a brief pyrocumulonimbus (pyroCb) cloud on 29 January 2018; according to media reports, on that day there were winds of 55 km/hour (34 mph) and temperatures of 37 ºC (98.6 ºF) in the vicinity of these La Pampa province fires. GOES-16 (GOES-East) “Red” Visible (0.64 µm), Shortwave Infrared (3.9 µm) and “Clean” Infrared Window (10.3 µm) images (above; also available as an MP4 animation) showed the smoke plumes, fire thermal anomalies or “hot spots” (red pixels) and the cold cloud-top infrared brightness temperatures, respectively. The minimum pyroCb 10.3 µm temperature was -32.6 ºC at 1745 UTC. Note the relatively warm (darker gray) appearance on the 3.9 µm image — this is a characteristic signature of pyroCb clouds tops, driven by the aerosol-induced shift toward smaller ice particles (which act as more efficient reflectors of incoming solar radiation).

An Aqua MODIS True-color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) image viewed using RealEarth (below) showed the dense lower-tropospheric smoke drifting southward and southeastward from the fire source region, as well as the narrow anvil of the upper-tropspheric pyroCb cloud. Suomi NPP VIIRS fire detection locations are plotted as red dots on the final zoomed-in image. The actual time of the Aqua satellite pass over Argentina was 1812 UTC.

Aqua MODIS True-color RGB image, with Suomi NPP VIIRS fire detection locations [click to enlarge]

Aqua MODIS True-color RGB image, with Suomi NPP VIIRS fire detection locations [click to enlarge]

According to Worldview the coldest MODIS Infrared Window (11.0 µm) cloud-top brightness temperature was -41.2 ºC, thus surpassing the -40 ºC threshold that is generally accepted to classify it as a pyroCb. This is believed to be the first confirmed pyroCb event in South America.

Approximately 120 km north-northeast of the pyroCb cloud, rawinsonde data from Santa Rosa, Argentina (below) indicated that the -41 ºC cloud-top temperature corresponded to altitudes in the 10.8 to 11.6 km range. The air was very dry at that level in the upper troposphere, contributing to the rapid dissipation of the pyroCb cloud material as seen in the GOES-16 imagery.

Plots of rawinsonde data from Santa Rosa, Argentina [click to enlarge]

Plots of rawinsonde data from Santa Rosa, Argentina [click to enlarge]

48-hour HYSPLIT forward trajectories originating from the center of the pyroCb cloud at altitudes of 7, 9 and 11 km (below) suggested that a rapid transport of smoke over the adjacent offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean was likely at those levels.

HYSPLIT forward trajectories originating at altitudes of 7, 9 and 11 km [click to enlarge]

HYSPLIT forward trajectories originating at altitudes of 7, 9 and 11 km [click to enlarge]

On 30 January, Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index values (below; courtesy of Colin Seftor) were as high as 4.3 over the South Atlantic (at 41.81º South latitude, 53.22º West longitude, 17:31:34 UTC) — consistent with the HYSPLIT transport originating at 7 km.

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index on 30 January [click to enlarge]

Suomi NPP OMPS Aerosol Index on 30 January [click to enlarge]

Additional Suomi NPP VIIRS True-color and OMPS Aerosol Index images can be found on the OMPS Blog.

===== 01 February Update =====

This analysis of CALIPSO CALIOP data (courtesy of Mike Fromm, NRL) suggests that the upper-tropospheric smoke from this pyroCb event was transported as far as the eastern South Atlantic Ocean by 02 UTC on 01 February, having ascended to altitudes in the 9-10 km range.

PyroCb in British Columbia

On 12 September 2017 a pyroCb formed in British Columbia. GOES-15 detected the smoke plumes and pyroCb cloud, as well as the fires hot spot. The pyroCb cloud (~50.4º N, 110.3ºW) formed around 0:00 UTC . Starting at 22:00 UTC on 11 September, the animation below shows GOES-15 0.63 µm visible (left) and 3.9 µm shortwave IR (right) . In the shortwave IR images, the red pixels indicate very hot IR brightness temperatures exhibited by the fire source regions.

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel (left) and 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images (right) (click to play animation)

GOES-15 0.63 µm visible channel (left) and 3.9 µm shortwave IR channel images (right) (click to play animation)

Usually GOES-15 10.7 μm IR channel is used to find  the cloud-top IR brightness temperature. However, the resolution of this satellite did not provide a brightness temperature lower than -40ºC.

A 1-km resolution NOAA-19 AVHRR 10.8 µm Infrared Window image (below;courtesy ofRené Servranckx) revealed a minimum cloud-top IR brightness temperature of -47.8º C (green color enhancement) for the pyroCb at 0:40 UTC on 12 September.

NOAA-19 AVHRR 0.64 µm visible (top left), 3.7 µm shortwave IR (top right), 10.8 µm IR window (bottom left) and false-color RGB composite image (bottom right)

NOAA-19 AVHRR 0.64 µm visible (top left), 3.7 µm shortwave IR (top right), 10.8 µm IR window (bottom left) and false-color RGB composite image (bottom right)