Winter Weather

Overview

Winter storms are accompanied by widespread heavy snow, strong winds that can contribute to blizzard conditions, and often a transition zone from snow to rain that may include heavy accumulations of ice contributing to an increased likelihood of long-term power outages.

This visible image from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Jan. 24 at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) shows post-storm snow on the ground across eastern United States.

This visible image from the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite on Jan. 24 at 1830 UTC (1:30 p.m. EST) shows post-storm snow on the ground across eastern United States.

Credits: NASA Goddard MODIS Rapid Response

Precipitation remote sensing from the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission can help to map these heavy snowfall rates along with other passive microwave instruments that contribute to the Integrated Multi-Satellite Retrievals for GPM (IMERG) product, helping to fill gaps internationally where ground based networks may be lacking.  Following significant winter storms that contribute to widespread ice accumulation and power outages, unique observations from the Suomi National Polar Orbiting Partnership (S-NPP) Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) Day-Night Band can contribute to the remote sensing of changes in light emission from the surface, helpful for monitoring power outages and longer-term recovery.  In addition, land surface remote sensing from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard Terra and Aqua, VIIRS from Suomi-NPP, Landsat-7 and Landsat-8, and other platforms can leverage their multispectral imaging capabilities to map the geographic extent of snow, helpful for mapping the extent and duration of snow cover on the ground.  

In some scenarios, mapping snow cover and change is critical, as rapid snow melt in the spring season can contribute to additional streamflow, runoff, and flooding, particularly when combined with heavy springtime rainfalls.  These imagers can also be used to map ice cover and ice jams that contribute to upstream river flooding and impacts on river transport.  In these cases, other remote sensing techniques can be applied to map flood water and extent, including application of synthetic aperture radar to provide a higher resolution depiction of flood water and extent, particularly in vegetated or urban areas and regions that remain affected by cloud cover.

Datasets

Latest Updates

January 25, 2016
On Jan. 23 at 5 a.m. EST, RapidScat showed sustained winds as strong as 45 meters per second (100 mph/162 kph) along the coast of southern New Jersey, which included areas from Cape May to Atlantic City.
NASA satellites obtained a number of different views of the great winter storm that left many snowfall records from Virginia to New York City from January 22 to 24, 2016. RapidScat provided a look at the strong winds that led to flooding in southern New Jersey, while NASA's Aqua satellite and NASA/USGS's Landsat satellite provided images of the post-storm snowy blanket. On Jan. 23 at 5 a.m. EST, RapidScat showed sustained winds as strong as 45 meters per second (100 mph/...
January 23, 2016
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image of the storm system at 2:15 a.m. EST on Jan. 23.
A massive winter storm system pummeled the eastern United States in late January 2016, with two low-pressure systems merging into a potent nor’easter that dropped heavy snow from Virginia to New England. By late afternoon on Jan. 23, snowfall totals were approaching records in several states, and hurricane-force winds were battering the coastlines and leading to serious flooding. The storm was expected to continue through the morning of Jan. 24. The Visible Infrared...