What is it about?

Satellite night time visible imagery that leverages to lunar illumination of tropical cyclone clouds tops can be used to monitor their location, structure, and intensity even when the sun is below the horizon. The faint reflectance of the moon off the clouds is readily measured by the VIIRS sensor on NPP and JPSS1. This data set can be used to complement infrared (IR) imagery that suffers from inherent limitations at night.

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Why is it important?

IR imagery suffers from inherent limitations (poorer spatial resolution than visible, inability to see through opaque clouds) and thus analysts need additional information when trying to specify tropical cyclone locations, structure and intensity routinely around the globe. Night time visible data can mitigate some of these limitations by leveraging the moonlight to view exposed surface circulation centers and see through thin cirrus clouds to the low-level clouds important for center location and accurate intensity estimates.


Night time visible sensors like those on VIIRS flying on both NPP and JPSS1 offer tropical cyclone community another tool to extract accurate storm center location, structure and intensity details in our quest to provide excellent updates to global TC characteristics 24/7.

Jeff Hawkins
Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems, Consultant

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Tropical Cyclone Characterization via Nocturnal Low-Light Visible Illumination, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, November 2017, American Meteorological Society,
DOI: 10.1175/bams-d-16-0281.1.
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