Status Report

Image: Rocky Mountain Snow As Seen From Space

By SpaceRef Editor
December 31, 2012
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In time for the 2012 winter solstice, a storm dropped snow over most of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. On December 20, the National Weather Service reported snow depths exceeding 100 centimeters (39 inches) in some places–the result of the recent snowfall plus accumulation from earlier storms.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on December 19, 2012. Clouds had mostly cleared from the region, though some cloud cover lingered over parts of the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. Showing more distinct contours than the clouds, the snow cover stretched across the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding region, from Idaho to Arizona and from California to Colorado.

Snowfall did not stop in Colorado, as the storm continued moving eastward across the Midwest. By December 20, 2012, a combination of heavy snow and strong winds had closed schools, iced roads, and delayed flights, complicating plans for holiday travelers.

Though troublesome for travel, the snow brought much-needed moisture; multiple cities had set new records for consecutive days without measurable snow, CBS news reported. As of December 18, the U.S. Drought Monitor stated that a substantial portion of the continental United States continued to suffer from drought, and “exceptional” drought conditions extended from South Dakota to southern Texas.


CBS News. (2012, December 20) Snowstorm blows out of Rockies, into Midwest. Accessed December 20, 2012.

National Weather Service. (2012, December 20) National Snow Analyses. Accessed December 20, 2012.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln. (2012, December 18) U.S. Drought Monitor. Accessed December 20, 2012.
NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response. Caption by Michon Scott.

Instrument: Aqua – MODIS. Larger images

SpaceRef staff editor.