Status Report

NASA MODIS Image of the Day: January 8, 2012 – Snow in the Rockies

By SpaceRef Editor
January 8, 2012
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NASA MODIS Image of the Day: January 8, 2012 – Snow in the Rockies
NASA MODIS Image of the Day: January 8, 2012 - Snow in the Rockies


A winter snow storm layered much of the Midwestern United States and the Rocky Mountains with a blanket of freshly fallen snow in early January, 2012.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image at 20:30 UTC (1:30 p.

m. Mountain Standard Time) on January 2, 2012. Along with the snow came challenges. Road were closed in several mountainous passes and traffic was delayed in many areas. For those traversing or recreating in the back country, heavy snow on high mountain peaks increased safety concerns. The West Central Montana Avalanche Foundation (WCMAF) issued an advisory stating that the avalanche danger was “considerable” in areas above 6000 feet on wind-loaded terrain steeper than 35 degrees. They also stated that “Dangerous” avalanche conditions existed on many north to south facing slopes. Despite the hazards, the snow was a welcomed winter visitor. Precipitation in the Rocky Mountain States comes primarily in the form of snowfall, with many areas lacking in summer rain. Residents of the mountains and the adjacent plains rely on spring snow melt to fill the reservoirs for agricultural and municipal use. Heavy snow also fills the pockets of local businesses, many of which rely on snow-dependent ski tourism. The winter of 2011 – 2012 has so far been short of snow in many areas of the Rocky Mountains, particularly in Colorado. Colorado Parks and Wildlife snow surveys in the Blue River, Middle Creek, Troublesome Creek and Williams Fork areas report that the average snow depth shows less than 5 cm this year, where the 10-year average is about 15 cm. The Kawuneeche Visitor Center in the Rocky Mountain National Park, reported 7 inches of snow depth, where it is normally about 22 inches. Not all areas are so short of snow, however. In Montana, the home of the heaviest snow of the winter so far, one ski resort “encourages all Rocky Mountain skiers to stop praying for snow, and just come find it” there.

SpaceRef staff editor.