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NASA satellite reveals January had fifth largest snow cover in past 45 years

Saturday, February 26th, 2011 3:01am MDT
NASA satellite imagery reveals that at one point in January 2011 the nation saw its fifth largest snow cover extent. Click the image for a larger view. (NASA)

NASA satellite imagery reveals that at one point in January 2011 the nation saw its fifth largest snow cover extent. Click the image for a larger view. (NASA)

How much snow has fallen this season in Colorado all depends on where you are.  The high country has continued to see snowfall far in excess of normal while here on the Plains we remain mostly dry.  For the nation, a new NASA satellite image reveals that 71 percent of it was covered in snow at one point last month.

The new image (right), taken by NASA’s Terra satellite using its Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), reveals a snow covered contiguous United States in January.

The image uses false colors to show the snow extent and the length of time it was on the ground.  White areas were completely covered with snow for most of the month whereas the pale green areas had snow for part of the month or were only partly snowy.

On January 12, 71 percent was covered in snow – the fifth largest amount of snow cover in the past 45 years.  In fact, 49 of the 50 states had snow thanks to a significant winter storm that pummeled the Gulf Coast states with Florida being the only hold out.

Despite the expansive snow cover, the National Climatic Data Center said that January 2011 was the ninth-driest January in the United States since 1894.  Further, while snow reached the Gulf Coast states, the southern half of the nation has been very dry with a large area from stretching Arizona to Virginia considered in various stages of drought.

Eastern Colorado is now seeing areas of moderate to severe drought as the lack of snowfall we have seen takes its toll.  In Denver we have recorded only 18.1 inches of snow so far this season – 21.5 inches below what we would normally see through the end of February.  Thornton has barely fared better recording 18.5 inches so far.

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