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STAR Looks at the February 2010 Mid-Atlantic Blizzard

satellite image: GOES-11/GOES-12 water vapor composite image

GOES-11/GOES-12 Water Vapor Composite Image
(click to see animation)


satellite image: GOES-12 6.5 m water vapor images + cloud-to-ground lightning strikes

GOES-12 6.5 µm Water Vapor Images
+ Cloud-to-Ground Lightning Strikes
(click to see animation)

February 6, 2010 - The Washington-Baltimore Metropolitan area experienced a second powerful winter storm on 05 February 06 February 2010. STAR science illuminates fascinating details of the storm from satellite observations at the Coooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS).

GOES-11/GOES-12 Water Vapor Composite Image
Top image / animation at right:

AWIPS images of 3-hourly composites of the GOES-11 and GOES-12 water vapor channel data (top right) showed a strong disturbance originating over the Pacific Ocean that was progressing eastward across the southwestern US and northern Mexico during the days leading up to the storm. There was also evidence of a plume of subtropical moisture seen on the water vapor imagery.

GOES-12 6.5 µm Water Vapor Images
+ Cloud-to-Ground Lightning Strikes
Second image / animation at right:

A time sequence of GOES-East Imager water vapor images with an overlay of cloud-to-ground lightning strikes showed three important phases of the storm: (1) a expansive area of cold cloud tops associated with the initial round of heavy snowfall later in the day on 05 February; (2) the penetration of a dry air aloft over a broad region, which helped to cause atmospheric instability along its leading edge that led to periods of thunder and lightning, and (3) a well-defined frontal (or deformation) zone where additional snowfall banding developed during the final hours of the storm. These images are from the NWS's AWIPS display system. The lightning data were from a ground-based system and were color-coded based on their polarity.

How big was the storm?

The highest storm total snowfall reported was 40.0 inches at Colesville in Maryland. Washington Dulles International Airport received 32.4 inches of snow (their largest 2-day snowfall on record), and Baltimore- Washington International Airport received 24.8 inches of snow (their second-largest 2-day snowfall on record). So far, this is Philadelphia's 2nd- snowiest winter on record (56.3 inches) and Washington DC's 3rd- snowiest winter on record (44.9 inches).

The Advanced Satellite Products Branch (ASPB) is part of the Cooperative Research Program (CoRP) within STAR in NOAA's National Environmental Satellite, Data, and Information Service (NESDIS). The Branch is co- located with the Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) and collaborates extensively with UW scientists.


satellite image: GOES-11/GOES-12 water vapor composite image

Observed Snow Cover - Sunday, February 7, 2010
MODIS visible + MODIS false-color
Red/Green/Blue (RGB) Image
(click to see animation)

Mid-Atlantic Storm Imagery Update:
Sunday, February 7, 2010

A comparison of a 1-km resolution MODIS visible channel image and a false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (at right) shows the extent of the snow cover on the morning of 07 February. On the RGB image, snow appears as varying shades of red, in contrast to supercooled water droplet clouds (which appear as brighter features). Even after compaction of the heavy snowfall, there were still a number of sites reporting snow depths in excess of 30 inches that morning.

According to Tim Schmit, "MODIS's unique spectral and spatial attributes are preparing NWS forecasters, and others, for next generation instruments." The GOES-R Proving Ground engages NWS and other state and local offices in pre-operational demonstrations of selected capabilities of next generation GOES.


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Special thanks to Tim Schmit of the CoRP / Advanced Satellite Products Branch at the University of Wisconsin and Scott Bachmeier of the Coooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) for assembling, supplying and describing these images.


Data, algorithms, and images presented on STAR websites are intended for experimental use only and are not supported on an operational basis.  More information

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