Pure and Applied Geophysics

, Volume 164, Issue 6–7, pp 1193–1205 | Cite as

Inferring Low Cloud Base Heights at Night for Aviation Using Satellite Infrared and Surface Temperature Data

  • Gary P. EllrodEmail author
  • Ismail Gultepe


A nighttime image product that depicts areas of the lowest cloud base heights has been developed by combining brightness temperature data from the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite (GOES) Imager InfraRed (IR) bands centered at 3.9 µm and 10.7 µm, with hourly shelter temperatures from surface observing sites and offshore marine buoys. A dependent data sample showed a good correlation between the surface temperature minus IR cloud top temperature differences versus measured cloud base heights. Histogram analysis indicated that a temperature difference of less than 4-C related to a > 50% frequency of ceilings below 1000 ft above ground level, the threshold for Instrument Flight Rules (IFR). Using this result as a model, an experimental Low Cloud Base image product was developed that highlights regions of likely IFR ceilings. Validation of the Low Cloud Base product for two separate periods resulted in Probabilities of Detection of 67% and 72% and False Alarm Rates of 6% and 11%, respectively. Some regional variation observed could be related to the relative frequency of multi-layered overcast conditions. The biggest factor leading to underdetection of IFR ceilings by the GOES Low Cloud Base product is the presence of overlying clouds, including thin cirrus contamination. The GOES Low Cloud Base product shows potential for use as guidance for aviation meteorologists over both continental and marine areas.


Fog forecasting satellite applications aviation operations 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser Verlag, Basel, 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NOAA/NESDIS (Retired)GranbyUSA
  2. 2.Cloud Physics and Severe Weather Research Section, Meteorological Research DivisionEnvironment CanadaTorontoCanada

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