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Submitted by Tim Buckley on Wed, 01/12/2011 - 9:54am.
Wednesday morning's visible satellite image gives us a rare sight here in the Cape Fear area -- snow! The snow cover from this past storm is clearly visible as skies have finally cleared out across the region.
Take a look!
All of the white you see on land north of Wilmington is snow on the ground. As you can see, some melting has taken place since the snow initially fell back on Monday - but there's still plenty of snow cover in Pender County / Columbus County / Bladen County and points north. This frequently shows up on visible satellite images during the winter months across the US, but it's rare to see it here in our area just because we don't often have snow on the ground.
But how can a satellite positioned 22,000 miles above the Earth see the snow in our area in great detail? It works like this. A visible satellite image is made up of light from the visible spectrum that is reflected back to space. Since clouds are one of the best reflectors of visible light, they show up great on these images. But, snow acts the same way - and shows up similarly as you can see in today's example.
In fact, in certain situations it can be difficult at first glance to tell the difference between clouds and snow on a single image. There are some easy ways to tell though. If you look closely, you can often see rivers/streams/forests embedded within the snow cover. You can clearly the Lumber River today on our image, which looks like a dark diagonal line through the snow toward the South Carolina border.
Perhaps the easiest way to tell the difference between clouds and snow is to view a loop of the satellite image. As you might guess, the snow doesn't move, while the clouds do.
Here's a broader look across the Southeast.
In this image you can really see the snow continue back into South Carolina, Georgia, and all the way west into Arkansas. There are some clouds in this image as well in the North Carolina mountains and into Tennessee - and you can see by a quick glance its difficult to tell the difference.
A fun test to do over the next few days of clear skies is to check back at these pictures and "watch" the snow melt from space.
That's all for now, enjoy the sunshine!
By: Tim Buckley