January 12, 2020 - Snow in the Mountain West

Snow in the Mountain West

If you love to hit the slopes in the Western United States, it’s likely you have a strong opinion on one of the liveliest alpine rivalries of recent years— does Colorado or Utah have the better snow? Regardless of the finer points of that ongoing battle between ski resorts, one thing is abundantly clear: this year, there’s plenty of snowpack to go around. Skiing should be awesome across most of the region.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of snow-covered mountains on January 7, 2020. The image encompasses parts of Arizona and New Mexico (south), most of Utah and Colorado, and parts of Idaho and Wyoming (north).

Clouds appear to cover much of the snow in Utah and Colorado, suggesting that snow was likely falling when this image was acquired. While snow and cloud are both bright white in true-color images, snow clings to topography while cloud lays across topography, obscuring it from view.

According to the National Weather Service (NWS), snow is expected across much of this region, continuing through January 11, and in some places it may be heavy. In addition, they report that in the Southwest section (parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and western Colorado), that 28.9% of that region was covered in snow on January 11 and that the Central Rockies (central Colorado, most of Idaho, and parts of Wyoming) was 87.9% snow-covered. Maximum snow depth in the Southwest region was 62.5 inches while the Central Rockies registered 2,206.4 maximum inches. Average snow depth was 1.7 inches and 3.2 inches, respectively, in each region.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 1/7/2020
Resolutions: 1km (1.6 MB), 250m (4.2 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC