Now, for Something Different…A Look At Southern Appalachian Snows

With all of the well-deserved attention regarding former hurricane Sandy, one lesser known aspect of this complex storm and the cold airmass that it merged with was the very heavy snowfall that occurred in parts of the southern and central Appalachians.  As the clouds started to clear the southern Appalachians of East Tennessee and western North Carolina, I decided to take a look at the false color RGB produced by SPoRT to see if the snows would be evident.  In case you’re not aware, some of the highest areas of the Smoky Moutains National Park received up to 3 feet of snow from the 29th through the 30th of October.  Yes, you read that correctly…the park rangers were measuring the snow in feet!  At the top of Mt. LeConte (elevation 6,593 ft), 34 inches of snow was measured by National Park Service (NPS) officials, with drifts reported up to the roof of the dining hall at the lodge there.  At nearby Newfound Gap (5,048 ft), along US 441, NPS officials estimated the snow at 36 inches.  Although this imagery is at 4 km resolution, the snow can be seen mainly just along the higher peaks of the southern Appalachians (Image 1).

Image 1. Terra MODIS False Color image valid 1621 UTC Oct 31, 2012. In this imagery, the snow (shades of red) can be distinguished from low clouds (white colors). The green colors are surface areas witout snow, while dark colors represent rivers/lakes. Some mountain locations have been labeled, including snowfall amounts where they were available.  County borders and county names also appear, along with the cities of Knoxville (upper left) and Asheville, NC (middle right).

Notice in this true color visible image, that the snow is indistinguishable from the low clouds (Image 2 below), which represent one of the advantages of the false color imagery.

Image 2. True color visible image valid 1621 UTC October 31, 2012.

Next, take a look at the latest imagery from the central Appalachians where snowfall totals of up to 2-3 feet were also reported.  The snow in the False Color image below is represented by the red colors.  Notice that low clouds over the southern Applachians are now obscuring the snow there.

Image 3. Terra MODIS False Color image valid 1609 UTC November 2, 2012. The red swath across the eastern portions of West Viriginia, including small areas of SW Virginia and far NW North Carolina are indicative of the snow that fell across the area. The near-IR channel in the False Color RGB recipe makes the snow stand out among the low clouds in the image.

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