Did you know that NOAA has a "Satellite Services Division" ?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has many parts; the National Weather Service is one of these parts, that work together to bring you the most accurate forecast possible on a daily basis. The Satellite Services Division, or SSD for short, keeps an eye on all of the satellite images coming in from a variety of sources, they analyze them, and then notify their partners at the National Weather Service of any interesting developments.
The winter storm entering the U.S. Intermountain West is a great example. See the image below:
|SSD Annotated GOES West Infrared Satellite Image|
When the SSD ingests an image of interest, the Meteorologists at the SSD analyze the data, annotate the image, and send a discussion to their partners at the National Weather Service forecast offices. The above image is an example of a "Precipitation Product" from the SSD. This morning's GOES West Infrared Satellite Image shows large swaths of precipitation associated with a storm moving into the Intermountain West from the Pacific. The Subtropical Jet and Polar Jet are noted by large red arrows. These two jets are significant because they are acting as sources of moisture, instability, and as steering currents for the developing storm. The abundance of moisture is seen on the satellite imagery as higher, colder cloud tops. These jet signatures and moisture sources are recognized by the experts at the SSD and they send out an early waring to the NWS forecasters. The NWS forecasters take this information and compare it to what the current forecast models are showing and issue watches and warnings to the public accordingly.
This particular storm is expected to strengthen over Northern Utah and take direct aim at Colorado. The counter-clockwise flow around the low pressure system will wrap moisture around into Southern Wyoming. The westerly winds aloft will push moisture up against the western mountains of Wyoming, possibly resulting in significant amounts of snow in the mountains and over southern Wyoming. There is some uncertainty in the forecast models as to where the center of the storm will materialize at the surface, the most likely track will take the storm over central Colorado. This will have a major impact upon where the heaviest snow falls. If the storm takes the expected track, then the heaviest snow will fall south of our area.