The enhanced infrared images display color-coded temperatures of the earth’s surface or highest atmospheric cloud layer. Higher clouds have progressive lower temperatures. Although high, cold clouds do not necessarily equate with strong storms at the surface, they are often indicative of deep, intense atmospheric systems.
Forecasters use infrared images to distinguish the deeper, stronger weather systems from more innocuous low clouds. For example, on a visible satellite image low clouds and fog (which seldom produce significant precipitation) can look the same a high clouds of a major storm system. An additional advantage of infrared images is that they can be viewed at any hour of the day; visible images are only usable during daytime.
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