Snow Cover 2011 vs 2012

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By Steve MacLaughlin on December 5, 2012, 2:00pm Last modified: December 6, 2012, 3:47pm

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As we continue moving through December and nearing what is normally a brutal winter here in Connecticut, I have been looking through our wxedge archives from last year and some of the incredible stats coming after the "winter that wasn't."

Last night, I posted an article that was orginally written last March talking about the amazing numbers from December 2011 to February 2012: http://www.wxedge.com/articles/201203072011-2012_4th_warmest_winter_on_record

This is another perspective that was also first-written last March as we were continuing to analyze the staggering images from an historic season that was really warm and really dry.

For Connecticut the winters of 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 were mirror images. But we were not alone...much of the United States got off easy last winter. 

Where was the snow on March 3rd 2011 vs March 3rd 2012?

Ellen Gray (NASA) -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.


snow cover map derived from MODIS data

Snow cover map for March 3, 2011. (Image credit: NASA/MODIS)
› Larger image


snow cover map derived from MODIS data

Snow cover map for March 5, 2012. (Image credit: NASA/MODIS)
› Larger image


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 Sierra Nevada all the way into southern California.

In 2012, areas that are usually snow covered are bare, including parts of Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota. The Snake River Plain in southern Idaho is clearly visible. This low-lying valley is the track of the hotspot that is now under Yellowstone National Park. 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.

For a more in-depth explanation, visit: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/17jan_missingsnow/

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Steve MacLaughlin

Town: New Haven, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since January 2012.

Articles: 178

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