NASA eyes powerful winter storm spreading into mid-Atlantic

January 22, 2016 by Hal Pierce
On January 22 at 1329 UTC (8:29 a.m. EST) the GPM core satellite saw saw precipitation falling at a rate of over 64 mm (2.5 inches) per hour in storms over northern Alabama. Credit: SSAI/NASA/JAXA, Hal Pierce

The winter storm that caused damage during the night along the Gulf Coast has deepened and has started to spread heavy rain, freezing rain, sleet and snow northward into the Mid-Atlantic region. NASA's GPM and NOAA's GOES satellites are providing data on rainfall, cloud heights, extent and movement of the storm.

The National Weather Service (NWS) Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland said "An area of low pressure centered over the southeastern U.S. will continue developing into a major winter storm which will impact a large portion of the East Coast from the southern Appalachians through the Mid-Atlantic States from Friday into the weekend. Snowfall totals may exceed 2 feet in portions of these areas, including the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metropolitan areas."

The Global Precipitation Measurement or GPM mission core satellite gathered precipitation data on the increasingly dangerous storm on January 22, 2016 at 1329 UTC (8:29 a.m. EST). A precipitation analysis was created using data collected by GPM's Microwave Imager (GMI) and Dual-frequency Precipitation Radar (DPR) instruments. GPM's DPR saw precipitation falling at a rate of over 64 mm (2.5 inches) per hour in storms over northern Alabama.

At NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, radar data from GPM's DPR (Ku Band) were used to show the vertical structure of storm tops. Some of the storm tops were near 7 kilometers (4.3 miles) high along the Appalachians in eastern Tennessee and Kentucky. Higher storm cloud tops are indications that storms are likely stronger. At 3:46 a.m. EST on Jan. 22, the National Weather Service said "Areas of heavy snow are expected to develop in western Tennessee, Kentucky and in the southern Appalachians, and expand into central Appalachians and mid-Atlantic while increasing snowfall intensity."

This visible image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) shows the major winter storm now affecting the U.S. East coast. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

An animation of infrared and visible imagery from NOAA's GOES-East satellite from Jan. 20 to 22 was created to show the movement of the system through the central U.S. into the Mid-Atlantic region. A visible image from NOAA's GOES-East satellite at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) showed clouds associated with the winter storm stretching from Arkansas to the northeastern U.S. coast. The animation and images were created by the NASA/NOAA GOES Project at NASA Goddard.

NWS said "A strong low over the Atlantic waters will become a dominant force in setting up very gusty winds in the Mid-Atlantic to Long Island, with storm surge flooding possible."

The impacts from the storm stretch from the Ozark Mountains to the Mid-Atlantic. On Jan. 22, the NWS said heavy snowfall and increasingly strong winds through Saturday are predicted to cause dangerous blizzard conditions in Washington, D.C. where blizzard warnings were in effect. To the south, a quarter to half inch of ice accumulations across parts of the interior Carolinas outside the mountains - with lighter amounts expected in Kentucky and over the much of the central/eastern Carolinas. Severe weather is also possible across eastern Gulf coasts and Florida.

This animation NOAA's GOES-East satellite imagery from Jan. 20 to 22 shows the movement of the system that is expected to bring a powerful winter storm to the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region. Credit: NASA/NOAA GOES ProjectCredits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project

That winter is not the only big weather maker in the United States as another low pressure area was affecting the Pacific Northwest. On Jan. 22, heavy rainfall is expected in lower elevations of northwestern California and southwestern Oregon with heavy snow in higher elevations of Sierras and Washington Cascade mountain range.

For updated forecasts, visit NOAA's NWS website:

Explore further: NASA sees gulf coast severe weather from developing winter storm

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