GOES Satellite Movie Captures Record-Setting February Blizzards in Washington (w/ Video)

March 25, 2010
Bruce Jenner, a Golden Retriever not an Olympic medalist, forges through the snow after the blizzard hit the suburbs of Maryland. Credit: Lynn Jenner/NASA

(PhysOrg.com) -- During the first two weeks of February 2010, the GOES-12 weather satellite observed a record-setting series of "Nor'easter" snow storms which blanketed the mid-Atlantic coast in two blizzards.

Washington, D.C. normally averages only 16 inches of snow per year, but this year most of the season's arrived over several days and the called GOES-12 captured the storms.

NASA's GOES Project created a movie of GOES from February 1-16, 2010 when two blizzards hit the Baltimore, Md. and Washington areas. The GOES-12 operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) captures images of U.S. East Coast weather continuously. Those images were compiled into a movie by the NASA GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

"It is a pleasure to see the fruits of the hard work and commitment from the NASA and NOAA team," said Andre Dress, GOES N-P NASA Deputy Project Manager, at NASA Goddard. "These images are very impressive and I am excited to think that these were taken with the older satellites. NOAA plans to put into service the newer GOES N-P design, this April. I know we will be seeing better and more exhilarating images this year," Dress said.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
This is a still from the movie of GOES satellite imagery compiled from February 1-16, 2010 when 2 blizzards hit the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area. Credit: NASA GOES Project, Dennis Chesters

During the first two weeks of February, heavy, wet snows semi-paralyzed Washington. Five inches fell on February 3, 24 inches fell on February 6, and 12 inches on February 10. A second storm followed on February 16 that dumped 10 inches on Philadelphia and New York, but spared Washington and Baltimore.

These storms are called "Nor'easters" because the counter-clockwise circulation around a low pressure system on the Atlantic coast pushes moist sea air from the north-east into arctic air over the land. This windy mixture creates a very efficient snow-making machine from Boston to Washington. "The GOES movie illustrates how succeeding storms form along the Gulf coast, travel up the Atlantic coast, pause over the mid-Atlantic states, and finally slide out to sea," said Dennis Chesters of the NASA GOES Project.

This movie was created by overlaying the clouds observed several times per hour by NOAA's GOES Imager onto a true-color map previously derived from NASA's MODIS land-mapping instrument. The infrared channels on GOES detect clouds day and night, which are portrayed as grey for low clouds and white for high clouds. During the day, the visible channel on GOES adds shadow-texture to the clouds and illuminates the snow on the ground.

The movie compresses 16 days into 2 minutes. It illustrates how continental-scale land/sea/air phenomena come together to make large winter storms. NOAA's ground/space-based observing system and numerical weather models did an excellent job of accurately forecasting the location and depth of each East Coast blizzard in this series.

Explore further: Still a low chance of development for two lows

Related Stories

Still a low chance of development for two lows

July 22, 2009

The two areas of thunderstorms in the Caribbean from yesterday, July 21, are on the move. One area is now moving into out of the Caribbean and into the eastern Atlantic Ocean while the other is now moving over the southeastern ...

NASA's GOES Project offers real-time hurricane alley movies

November 9, 2009

People love to get the big picture of hurricane alleys, and thanks to the GOES Project at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., they can now get real-time satellite animations of the eastern Pacific and Atlantic ...

Recommended for you

Drought's lasting impact on forests

July 30, 2015

In the virtual worlds of climate modeling, forests and other vegetation are assumed to bounce back quickly from extreme drought. But that assumption is far off the mark, according to a new study of drought impacts at forest ...

A cataclysmic event of a certain age

July 27, 2015

At the end of the Pleistocene period, approximately 12,800 years ago—give or take a few centuries—a cosmic impact triggered an abrupt cooling episode that earth scientists refer to as the Younger Dryas.

'Carbon sink' detected underneath world's deserts

July 28, 2015

The world's deserts may be storing some of the climate-changing carbon dioxide emitted by human activities, a new study suggests. Massive aquifers underneath deserts could hold more carbon than all the plants on land, according ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.