End of Winter: How 2012 snow stacks up

Mar 14, 2012
This is the snow cover map for March 3, 2011. Credit: NASA/MODIS

The mild winter of 2012 has many people asking, "Where's the snow?" These two snow cover maps show the difference between snow extent on March 3, 2011, and March 5, 2012. The maps were compiled from data collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite.

In 2012, the snow cover is very spotty compared to 2011. In 2011, the Great Lakes were clearly defined by surrounding snow, and snow blanketed the Rocky Mountains, Nevada's Basin and Range, and the all the way into southern California.

This is the snow cover map for March 5, 2012. Credit: NASA/MODIS

In 2012, areas that are usually snow covered are bare, including parts of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. The Plain in southern Idaho is clearly visible. This low-lying valley is the track of the hotspot that is now under . In the east, the Great Lakes area, southern Ontario and the East Coast of the United States have much less snow cover than they did at this time last year.

2012's relatively light snowfall is the result of two atmospheric processes, according to climatologist Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. One is the La Niña conditions in the Pacific, which result in less moist air crossing the continental United States. The other is a strong Arctic Oscillation that keeps cold arctic air around the North Pole and away from more southern latitudes.

Explore further: Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

More information: For a more in-depth explanation, visit: www.physorg.com/news/2012-01-what-happened-to-all-the.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What happened to all the snow?

Jan 18, 2012

Winter seems to be on hold this year in some parts of the United States. Snowfall has been scarce so far in places that were overwhelmed with the white stuff by the same time last year.

Image: Snow-bound Italy

Feb 14, 2012

ESA’s Envisat satellite has captured some unusual views of Italy after much the country suffered heavy snowfall a for second time in a week.   Practically the whole of the north and central parts of th ...

Winter forecast cold north, dry south, heavy snow

Oct 20, 2011

(AP) -- Winter looks to be cold and wet across the northern tier of states, and the drought will worsen in the South, where conditions are expected to be warmer and drier than usual, government forecasters said Thursday.

Minnesota blizzard caught by Terra satellite

Dec 14, 2010

The upper Midwest was hit by a powerful winter storm this past weekend as more than 17 inches of snow brought down the roof to the Metrodome football complex in Minneapolis. NASA's Terra satellite flew over ...

Recommended for you

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

12 hours ago

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

There's something ancient in the icebox

12 hours ago

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

Image: Grand Canyon geology lessons on view

18 hours ago

The Grand Canyon in northern Arizona is a favorite for astronauts shooting photos from the International Space Station, as well as one of the best-known tourist attractions in the world. The steep walls of ...

First radar vision for Copernicus

19 hours ago

Launched on 3 April, ESA's Sentinel-1A satellite has already delivered its first radar images of Earth. They offer a tantalising glimpse of the kind of operational imagery that this new mission will provide ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

There's something ancient in the icebox

Glaciers are commonly thought to work like a belt sander. As they move over the land they scrape off everything—vegetation, soil, and even the top layer of bedrock. So scientists were greatly surprised ...

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

Clean air: Fewer sources for self-cleaning

Up to now, HONO, also known as nitrous acid, was considered one of the most important sources of hydroxyl radicals (OH), which are regarded as the detergent of the atmosphere, allowing the air to clean itself. ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

Hackathon team's GoogolPlex gives Siri extra powers

(Phys.org) —Four freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania have taken Apple's personal assistant Siri to behave as a graduate-level executive assistant which, when asked, is capable of adjusting the temperature ...

Chronic inflammation linked to 'high-grade' prostate cancer

Men who show signs of chronic inflammation in non-cancerous prostate tissue may have nearly twice the risk of actually having prostate cancer than those with no inflammation, according to results of a new study led by researchers ...