NASA's Aqua satellite gathered infrared data from the storm system and the area ahead of the storm for cloud and ground temperatures. NOAA's GOES-East satellite provided visible and infrared imagery that showed the extent and the movement of the system.
Forecasters at the National Weather Service's Weather Prediction Center (WPC) noted that the low pressure system crossing the Midwest states and Ohio Valley is expected to merge with another low off the southeast U.S. coast. WPC stated "This will allow for a strong nor'easter to develop near the coast and cause a late-season snowstorm from the central Appalachians to New England, including many of the big cities in the Northeast U.S."
An Infrared Look at the Storm
Infrared light provides scientists with temperature data and that's important when trying to understand the strength of storms. When it comes to snow storms, both ground temperature and cloud top temperatures are important. The higher the cloud tops the colder they are, and stronger the storm. Infrared data, such as that gathered by the AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite, can provide that important information.
When NASA's Aqua satellite flew over the eastern U.S. on March 13 at 07:35 UTC (3:35 a.m. EST), it took a reading of ground and cloud top temperatures. AIRS detected some strong storms with cloud top temperatures as cold as minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 degrees Celsius) stretching from Michigan southwest through Illinois and into southeastern Missouri and northwestern Arkansas. Those storms have the capability to produce heavy precipitation, which in this case would be heavy snowfall rates.
AIRS data also showed the temperatures at the surface on the East coast (and ahead of the Midwest system) were as cold as 270 kelvin or 26.33 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 3.15 degrees Celsius). That's cold enough for snow to stick on the ground.
Making a Satellite Movie of the Storm
The path of the Midwest low pressure system was captured in a NASA animation or movie using infrared and visible imagery from NOAA's Geostationary Operational Environmental or GOES East satellite. The imagery spanned two days from March 11 through March 13 at 1715 UTC (1:15 p.m. EST).
To create the video and imagery, NASA/NOAA's GOES Project located at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland overlays the cloud data from NOAA's GOES-East satellite on a true-color image of land and ocean created by data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, or MODIS, instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites. Together, these data create the entire animation of the storm and show its movement.
GOES satellites provide the kind of continuous monitoring necessary for intensive data analysis. Geostationary describes an orbit in which a satellite is always in the same position with respect to the rotating Earth. This allows GOES to hover continuously over one position on Earth's surface, appearing stationary.
National Weather Service Prediction
On Monday, March 13, 2017 the National Weather Service noted: "A powerful nor'easter will bring very heavy snow, ice, strong winds, and dangerous travel conditions from the Middle Atlantic to New England through Tuesday. The heaviest snowfall is expected to occur from the northern Middle Atlantic to Southern New England where 12 to 18 inches can be expected with localized amounts up to 2 feet. Strong winds could down trees and cause power outages."
According to NWS, in those areas closer to the coast from southern New Jersey to the Carolinas, rain is expected with amounts in excess of an inch likely.
Nelson, Rubio fight back over proposed cuts to Coast Guard, NOAA and FEMA
With 1,350 miles of shoreline, nearly a million registered boats, and billions of dollars in historic damage from hurricanes, Florida relies heavily on three federal institutions.
The Coast Guard rescues boaters and chases after drugs and smugglers. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration helps track storms. And the Federal Emergency Management Agency provides funds to help people recover from disasters.
So President Donald Trump's proposals to cut the budgets of these institutions to fund a border wall has U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio pushing back and the organizations stepping out to explain their value to the state.
"We're not going to allow that to happen," Nelson said of the cuts in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. "NOAA's mission is too important."
On the Senate floor Wednesday, Nelson said cuts to the Coast Guard "just don't make any sense" and that cuts to FEMA "are not going to be popular in the eyes of those who have to turn to FEMA after a natural disaster to try to get their lives back on track."
Rubio said he will also challenge the administration over the proposed cuts.
"I don't agree with everything that Donald Trump is for, you know — he's proposed some cuts to ... the Coast Guard that we're going to have an issue with," Rubio told WJNO-AM radio in West Palm Beach.
The budget cut proposal, drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget, would make significant cuts to the Coast Guard, NOAA, and FEMA, among other agencies, according to a draft plan.
NOAA, part of the Commerce Department, would be hit by an overall 18 percent reduction in its budget of nearly $6 billion. The Coast Guard's $9.1 billion budget in 2017 would be cut 14 percent to about $7.8 billion, while FEMA's budget would be reduced about 11 percent to $3.6 billion.
The cuts are proposed even as the planned budget for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees FEMA and the Coast Guard, grows 6.4 percent to $43.8 billion, according to the plan, which was obtained by the Washington Post.
Some $2.9 billion of that would go to building the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, with $1.9 billion funding "immigration detention beds" and other Immigration and Customs Enforcement expenses, and $285 million set aside to hire 500 more Border Patrol agents and 1,000 more ICE agents and support staff.
As the pilot of a WP-3 Orion hurricane hunting airplane, NOAA Capt. Michael Silah knows what it is like to navigate intense storms.
Now, as head of NOAA's Aircraft Operations Center, which is moving from MacDill Air Force Base to Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, he is trying to navigate the latest political storm.
Because the budget cuts are considered "pre-decisional," Silah, like others contacted for this story, won't address specifics. But he said the Aircraft Operations Center's $22 million annual budget, spent on flying planes into and around storms to help determine track and intensity, is money well spent.
The center's hurricane tracking efforts have improved the forecast cone by 15 percent, Silah said. That could mean big savings considering it costs local, state and federal emergency managers about $1 million per mile of coastline to evacuate residents.
"If we can shrink that cone, so fewer communities have to be evacuated, its saves far more than $22 million," he said.
On the other side of the storms, after hurricanes Matthew and Hermine hit Florida last year, FEMA paid out more than $100 million to state and local agencies helping with recovery efforts and more than 10,000 individual claims.
The Coast Guard could not immediately provide statistics for Florida, but nationwide, the service responded to 16,343 search and rescue cases last year, assisted 24,089 people, saved 5,174 lives and protected more than $63 million in property from loss, according to spokeswoman Lt. Amy Midgett.
Here are some other measures of Coast Guard activity:
• Responded to 11,835 pollution incident reports and deployed coordinators in response to 35 oil and 17 hazardous substance incidents.
• Seized more than 201 metric tons of cocaine and 52,613 pounds of marijuana, worth an estimated $5.9 billion wholesale, and detained 585 suspected smugglers for prosecution.
• Apprehended 6,346 undocumented migrants.
• Patrolled 3.4 million square nautical miles of the U.S. Economic Exclusionary Zone to fight illegal fishing by foreign vessels and boarded more than 4,600 U.S. vessels to enforce domestic fishery law.
Nelson, in his message to Trump on the Senate floor, questioned whether the budget moves reflect the most important national priorities.
"Deep cuts in funding," he called them, "to crucial aspects of our nation's national security and our homeland security to pay for the construction of a border wall and also for a crackdown on illegal immigration."
NOAA: Storm forecast for Tuesday
Here is the latest snowfall forecast for Tuesday's storm (see map). There will likely be some shift in the axis of heaviest snowfall in later forecasts.
National Weather Service Taunton MA
412 AM EDT Sun Mar 12 2017
Barnstable MA-Dukes MA-Nantucket MA-Block Island RI-
Including the cities of Chatham, Falmouth, Provincetown,
Vineyard Haven, Nantucket, and New Shoreham
412 AM EDT Sun Mar 12 2017
...WINTER STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM LATE MONDAY NIGHT
THROUGH LATE TUESDAY NIGHT...
* LOCATIONS...Cape Cod, Martha`s Vineyard, Nantucket, and Block
* HAZARD TYPES...Heavy snow.
* ACCUMULATIONS...Snow accumulation of 6 inches or greater
possible, mainly near the Cape Cod Canal, Marthas Vineyard and
Block Island. Less snow is likely over the outer Cape and
* TIMING...Snow developing late Monday night, possibly mixing with
or changing to rain over the Cape and Islands during Tuesday.
Precipitation changing back to snow Tuesday night.
* IMPACTS...The heavy snow will result in hazardous travel
conditions. In addition strong winds may lead to blowing and
drifting snow, reduced visibility, and power outages.
* WINDS...Northeast 30 to 40 mph with gusts 60 mph possible.
* TEMPERATURES...In the mid 30s Tuesday.
* VISIBILITIES...One quarter mile or less at times.
A Winter Storm Watch means there is a potential for significant
snow, sleet, or ice accumulations that may impact travel.
Continue to monitor the latest forecasts. Be prepared to modify
travel plans should winter weather develop.