The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is still about 2 months away, but an area of low pressure that formed east of the Bahamas has caught the eye of forecasters at the National Hurricane Center (NHC). Earlier this week, NHC forecasters began monitoring invest AL90 for signs of potential subtropical or tropical cyclone development. This system became a dangerous marine cyclone but did not develop the characteristics needed to be classified a subtropical or tropical cyclone. Even so, AL90 did give NHC forecasters an early opportunity to explore GOES-16 data and imagery for a potential tropical system.
During the monitoring of AL90, NHC forecasters noted a couple of ways that GOES-16 imagery improved upon current GOES-13 imagery. The higher spatial and temporal resolution of GOES-16’s 0.64-µm visible channel helped forecasters discern clouds at different vertical levels and diagnose individual cloud motions. For example, in the loop below low-level cloud motions on the west side of AL90 are easier to see in the GOES-16 visible imagery (right) compared to the GOES-13 visible imagery (left). You may be wondering why hurricane forecasters need to see individual clouds when they are trying for forecast a larger-scale weather phenomenon. Tracking the motion of low-level clouds provides information about the low-level winds. This information is especially important during the formation stage when forecasters are looking for indications of a closed low-level circulation.
Forecasters also noted that GOES-16 water vapor imagery provided an advantage over GOES-13 during AL90. The GOES-16 7.3-µm water vapor band (right) highlighted mid-level moisture wrapping around the west side of the system. This moisture was not as easy to see with the current GOES-13 water vapor band (centered at 6.5 µm, left) since its weighting function peaks much higher up in the atmosphere (see Weighting function profiles graphic below).
And to think, this is just a glimpse of the advantages we will have with GOES-16 in orbit once hurricane season rolls around. Thanks for reading!
-Andrea Schumacher (CSU/CIRA)
with contributions from Jack Beven (NHC), Mark DeMaria (NHC), Michael Brennan (NHC), and Michael Folmer (CICS)
*The GOES-16 data posted on this page are preliminary, non-operational data and are undergoing testing. Users bear all responsibility for inspecting the data prior to use and for the manner in which the data are utilized.