MODIS true color image of California on the 5th of January 2003. Click on image for a view of the full scene at a resolution of 500 meters per pixel.
Corresponding MODIS MOD10_L2 snow map.
During December 2002 a series of storms dropped large amounts of snow on the northern Sierra Nevada and rain in Northern California's lower elevations. This image from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite shows both the snow around Lake Tahoe (right) and the rain-swollen Sacramento River (left). Up to 15 feet of snow fell in some areas of the northern Sierras, with about 11 feet above Lake Tahoe. Overall, precipitation (snowfall converted to an equivalent amount of rain) in the area was more than 200 mm (8 inches) above normal in December.
The heavy snow may be the result of the current El Niņo, which has moved into a "mature phase" according to the the United State's Climate Prediction Center. Most of the southern United States are expected to remain wetter than normal throughout the winter, while the northern US will be drier.
True color image and text courtesy of NASA's MODIS Land Rapid Response Team.