By late February, 2012, the great European cold wave had begun to loosen its frigid grip, but significant snow still remained in the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of snow in Italy on February 24 at 12:35 UTC (1:30 p.m. local time).
In the north of the image, bright white clouds blanket the region in a broad arc. Snow, which tends to be generally less bright that clouds, covers the Alps in the north of Italy. The Apennine Mountains, which form the backbone of the Italian peninsula, also carry a blanket of snow. Although clouds and snow can, at times, be distinguished visually in a true-color image, sometimes they can appear very similar. When it is important to clearly define snow from cloud, false color images are often helpful.
Rome, which can be seen as a gray smudge on the southwestern coast of the peninsula, recorded highs of a spring-like 50°F the day this image was captured, but earlier in the month the temperatures dove as low as 26°F on February 5. During that cold snap a rare intense snowfall blanketed Rome, causing the closure of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Palatine Hill due to concerns of the risk of icy footing for tourists, and roads became impassible.
Further north, temperatures plummeted to −21 °C (−6 °F) on 7 February. On February 11, news media reported over 2 meters (6.5 feet) of snow had fallen in Urbino, a walled town situated on a high sloping hillside on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. That same snowfall cut access to many remote towns in the Apennines, blocking roads and trapping some people in the homes.