In time for the 2012 winter solstice, a storm dropped snow over most of the Rocky Mountains in the United States. On December 20, the National Weather Service reported snow depths exceeding 100 centimeters (39 inches) in some places—the result of the recent snowfall plus accumulation from earlier storms.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this natural-color image on December 19, 2012. Clouds had mostly cleared from the region, though some cloud cover lingered over parts of the Pacific Northwest and Colorado. Showing more distinct contours than the clouds, the snow cover stretched across the Rocky Mountains and the surrounding region, from Idaho to Arizona and from California to Colorado.
In this image, parts of eight states are seen, separated by black border lines. Along the west border, from north to south, the states are Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California. The center row holds, from north to south, Idaho, Utah and Arizona, to the east the states are Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico.
Snowfall did not stop in Colorado, as the storm continued moving eastward across the Midwest. By December 20, 2012, a combination of heavy snow and strong winds had closed schools, iced roads, and delayed flights, complicating plans for holiday travelers.
Though troublesome for travel, the snow brought much-needed moisture; multiple cities had set new records for consecutive days without measurable snow, CBS news reported. As of December 18, the U.S. Drought Monitor stated that a substantial portion of the continental United States continued to suffer from drought, and “exceptional” drought conditions extended from South Dakota to southern Texas.