February 6, 2023 - Snow Surrounds the Great Salt Lake

Great Salt Lake

After struggling with an ongoing megadrought that brought Great Salt Lake to an all-time low water level in November 2023, the state of Utah glistened under a welcomed layer of snow in February 2023.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a true-color image of the Great Salt Lake surrounded by white—and enjoying a bump in the water level—on February 1.

The Great Salt Lake is the largest saltwater lake within the United States and the eight-largest on Earth. The lake depth depends heavily on rain and snowpack, falling dramatically in dry years and rising in wet years. In typical years, when snowpack topping the mountains in the Great Salt Lake basin is normal, the lake often rises about 2 feet and in years with above-average snowfall, lake depth can rise up to 3-4 feet, according to the Utah Department of Natural Resources. However, recent snowpack has been so poor that the water level only rose about 1 foot after spring snow melt in both 2021 and 2022. In fact, the Great Salt Lake has been shrinking and exposing large areas of dry lakebed, which can cause severe dust pollution, especially as the dust may be laden with heavy metals and other chemicals.

As of January 12, 2023, the snowpack in the Great Salt Lake Basin had risen to 185% of average, bringing optimism to a very dry state. On that date, local news sources reported that the Great Salt Lake’s water level had risen about 1 foot already, thanks to the above-average precipitation the state is enjoying this winter.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 2/1/2023
Resolutions: 1km (148 KB), 500m (424.8 KB), 250m (336.9 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC