17 Feb 2022
17 Feb 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal AMT.

A Semi-Lagrangian Method for Detecting and Tracking Deep Convective Clouds in Geostationary Satellite Observations

William K. Jones, Matthew W. Christensen, and Philip Stier William K. Jones et al.
  • Atmospheric, Oceanic & Planetary Physics, Department of Physics, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

Abstract. Automated methods for the detection and tracking of deep convective storms in geostationary satellite imagery have a vital role in both the forecasting of severe storms and research into their behaviour. Studying the interactions and feedbacks between multiple deep convective clouds, however, poses a challenge for existing algorithms due to the necessary compromise between false detection and missed detection errors. We utilise an optical flow method to determine the motion of deep convective clouds in GOES-16 ABI imagery in order to construct a semi-Lagrangian framework for the motion of the cloud field, independently of the detection and tracking of cloud objects. The semi-Lagrangian framework allows for severe storms to be simultaneously detected and tracked in both spatial and temporal dimensions. For the purpose of this framework we have developed a novel Lagrangian convolution method and a number of novel implementations of morphological image operations that account for the motion of observed objects. These novel methods allow the accurate extension of computer vision techniques to the temporal domain for moving objects such as DCCs. By combining this framework with existing methods for detecting deep convective clouds (including detection of growing cores through cloud top cooling and detection of anvil using brightness temperature), we show that the novel framework enables reductions in errors due to both false and missed detections compared to any of the individual methods, reducing the need to compromise when compared with existing frameworks. The novel framework enables the continuous tracking of anvil clouds associated with detected deep convection after convective activity has stopped, enabling the study of the entire lifecycle of deep convective clouds and their associated anvils. Furthermore, we expect this framework to applicable to a wide range of cases including the detection and tracking of low-level clouds and other atmospheric phenomena. In addition, this framework may be used to combine observations from multiple sources, including satellite observations, weather radar and reanalysis model data.

William K. Jones et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on amt-2022-31', Anonymous Referee #1, 16 Mar 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', William Jones, 11 Jun 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on amt-2022-31', Anonymous Referee #2, 21 Mar 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', William Jones, 11 Jun 2022

William K. Jones et al.

Data sets

tobac-flow Validation data William K. Jones

Model code and software

tobac-flow v1.0 William K. Jones

William K. Jones et al.


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Short summary
Geostationary weather satellites have been used to detect storm clouds since their earliest applications. However, this task remains difficult as imaging satellites cannot observe the strong vertical winds that are characteristic of storm clouds. Here we introduce a new method that allows us to detect the early development of storms and continue to track them throughout their lifetime, allowing us to study how their early behaviour affects subsequent weather.