February 19, 2014 - Clouds over the southeastern United States

Clouds over the southeastern United States

Unsettled winter weather over the United States created a spectacular scene when viewed from space in early February, 2014. Massive cloud cover, including row upon row of cloud streets, stretches over parts of Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, northern Florida and Georgia in the true-color image captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite on February 5.

These striking clouds, which formed along a cold front pushing across the southeast, were only a small part of the stormy weather experienced in the United States that day. At the time this image was captured, Winter Storm Nika was dumping snow and ice across much of the Midwest and Northeast. The winter storm, along with this associated cold front, spread clouds, precipitation and plummeting temperatures across dozens of states during its height, February 4-6.

According to the Weather Channel, thirty states reported snow and ice from the storm, with totals reaching 10 in (25 cm) of snow in Friendsville and 0.5 in (1.3 cm) of ice near Manchester, Maryland; 14 in (35.6 cm) of snow in Mayfield and Hadley, New York, and 13.2 in (33.5 cm) in Topeka Kansas. Topeka’s 12.9 in (32.8 cm) of snow which fell on February 4 was the third snowiest day on record, dating back to 1887.

The storm was so widespread that parts of Arkansas saw up to 2 in (5 cm) of snow, with other parts of the state receiving up to 0.5 in (1.3 cm) of ice. That normally nearly snow-free southern state also reported “dogwoods breaking at the top and splitting … popping and breaking trees sound like gunfire”, according to the Weather Channel.

Because the temperatures remained above freezing across most of the far southern states, the clouds in this image brought gloomy skies and rain, rather than snow and ice. However, strong winds blowing from the north/northwest drove across cold snowpack to help drop temperatures in the south. The strong, steady winds also helped create the wide band of cloud streets - parallel rows of cloud that align along the path of the wind.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 2/5/2014
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC