High elevation snow cover across the Grand Canyon region of the Southwest US

January 1st, 2011 |
MODIS true color RGB image (viewed using Google Earth)

MODIS true color RGB image (viewed using Google Earth)

A strong Pacific storm system moved through the southwestern US in late December 2010, producing snowfall amounts as high as 30 inches in northern Arizona. On 01 January 2011, a 250-meter resolution MODIS true color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image (viewed using Google Earth) from the SSEC MODIS Today site (above) showed the correlation of elevation and snow cover across the Grand Canyon region of northern Arizona. For example, while the lowest elevations of the Grand Canyon remained void of any snow cover, the snow depth at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was 36 inches, while 16 inches of snow was on the ground at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

A comparison of AWIPS images of MODIS 0.65 µm visible channel data and a false color RGB image (below) shows a larger scale view of the snow cover across northern Arizona, southern Utah, and southern Nevada. Snow cover over the higher elevations — the brighter white areas on the visible image — shows up as the darker red areas on the MODIS false color RGB image. A band of supercooled water droplet clouds (the brighter feature on the RGB image) could be seen stretching southeastward across southern Utah into northern Arizona.

With deep snow cover in place across the region, the minimum temperatures that morning were quite cold: -12º F at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon (a new record low for the date), -29º F at Grand Canyon Airport (station identifier KGCN), and -30º F at Bellemont (near Flagstaff, Arizona, station identifier KFLG).

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image

MODIS 0.65 µm visible image + MODIS false color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) image