March 17, 2014 - The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains

Snow covered the Rocky Mountains on March 12, 2014 when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite flew overhead and captured this true-color image of the scene.

Snow stretches in a nearly unbroken line from Canada in the northwest through Colorado and northern New Mexico in the southeast. The blanket of white lies across the mountain ranges, but the lowlands and prairies at the edge of the Rockies nearly snow free.

According to the National Weather Service’s Snow Analysis for the Central Rockies, on March 12 81.4% of the region was covered by snow, compared to 90.4% in February. Snow depth averaged 22.8 in (57.9 cm) with a maximum of 233.4 in (592 cm). The average snow water equivalent was 6.2 in (15.7 cm).

Much of the region surrounding the Rocky Mountains is semi-arid, and depends on the winter snowpack to provide a significant part of the water supply. Late spring and early summer snowmelt is critical to water for farming, home use and industry, for example. Greater snowpack indicates favorable water supplies while sligh snowpack may signal extremely dry months ahead.

The Natural Resources Conservation Service reported that snowpack in the western US as of February 1 showed a ‘stark west-to-east contrast’, with the areas south and west of the Rocky Mountains experiencing below normal snowpack. This includes Washington, Oregon, southwestern Idaho, California, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and southern Colorado. However, along and east of the Rocky Mountains the snowpack is near normal or above normal.

Image Facts
Satellite: Aqua
Date Acquired: 3/12/2014
Resolutions: 1km (1.2 MB), 500m (4.4 MB), 250m (10.8 MB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC