A shortwave trough ejecting out of the Great Basin east into the central US plains sent a cold front south through the southern high plains during the afternoon/evening of 11 Nov 2020. Gusty winds developing ahead of and behind the front resulted in widespread blowing dust across the region. Widespread wind gusts in excess of 45 mph were reported, along with visibility reductions generally to around four miles, and in some cases, to near zero. The video below depicts the blowing dust during the afternoon in far east-central Colorado.
GOES-West water vapor imagery from the previous evening through the day on the 14th reveals the influencing trough as it tracked through the region (Fig 1).
Blowing dust already developed during the late morning and early afternoon across northeast Colorado. Lofted dust was captured well in an animation of 500 m visible imagery with a cold 10.3 um IR BT overlay in order to mask out clouds (Fig 2). The 500 m nadir resolution is adequate to pinpoint the source points of the many individual dust plumes, similar to smoke emanating from a wildfire hot spot.
The lofted dust was also captured during the day in the Day Land Cloud RGB which incorporates the 500 m VIS channel in addition to 0.86 um Veggie band and 1.6 um snow/ice band, allowing it to capture surface/near-surface features well and differentiate ice and water clouds (Fig 3).
GOES-East Geocolor imagery provided perhaps the best depiction of the blowing dust during the daytime (Fig 3b). Further, 1-min imagery was available over the region during the event, allowing for a more detailed characterization to the dust evolution versus the 5-min conus imagery.
Similar animations capture afternoon blowing dust developing across southern Colorado, including dust collecting along the south-bound cold front as it tracked into the PHs (Fig 4-5).
Dust was similarly lofted across E NM and W TX in dry conditions with strong westerly winds (Fig 6-7).
A GOES-East Geocolor animation captures the full daytime evolution of blowing dust across the southern High Plains.
While GOES-East visible imagery provided better detection of blowing dust during the afternoon/evening due to increasing forward scattering, GOES-West contributed a better depiction during the morning. Two areas of very active morning blowing dust are shown from the GOES-West perspective: southern Colorado just south of la Junta, and far southwest TX (Fig 8-9).
The blowing dust continued after dark (after 2311 UTC) across much of the same region, particularly along and behind the the cold front pushing south out of KS into the PHs. IR only animations also captured the blowing dust evolution. The advantage of the IR-only imagery products is that dust can continue to be diagnosed after dark, in addition to during the day.
The evolution of blowing dust during the day into the night is shown first in the SWD, using a simple linear grayscale color table, with IR Window cold BTs overlaid (Fig 10). This simple display reveals areas of likely blowing dust into the night (dark gray to black), along with cloud top temperature trend information.
The default AWIPS Dust RGB, which incorporates the SWD along with the Split Cloud Top Phase and IR Window channel, captures the dust (pink) evolution into the night along with cloud top phase information (Fig 11).
Tweaks to that RGB, similar to those outlined in this blog post, help to make the lofted dust more easily diagnosable (dark cyan; Fig 12).
Finally, another RGB discussed here allows for dust (bright green) tracking in addition to wildfire hotspot detection (Fig 13). In this case, there did not appear to be any active fires in the region during the time period.
750 m VIIRS True Color imagery captured the early evolution of the blowing dust from 1930 UTC (SNPP) to 2020 UTC (NOAA-20) across E CO (Fig 14) and W TX (Fig 15).
Finally, an even higher resolution view (10 m) of the blowing dust is captured by the Sentinal-2 mission. These data are only available over a given point every few days, and are not as quickly available to forecasters as the NOAA satellite data, but provide a very high resolution, confirming view after the fact in some cases. The images shared in Figures 16 and 17 show the very early stages of lofted dust (1753 UTC) across southern Wyoming (east of Cheyenne) and southeast Colorado (south of La Junta). The source points of the lofted dust are clearly evident in this imagery.
The following tweets from NWS Amarillo presents photo of the impending blowing dust in the Texas Panhandle, along with a satellite view (GOES Dust RGB) representing the extent of blowing dust and its forecast evolution.
Bill Line, NESDIS and CIRA
Curtis Seaman and Dakota Smith (CIRA)