Here’s What a Blizzard Looks Like from Space
Believe us: You’ve never seen planet Earth like this before.
The ‘Blue Marble’ turns white
A half-foot of snow piled on your driveway may seem daunting… until you take a few million steps back. These stunning satellite images from NASA remind us that at the peak of winter, nearly half of the land surface of the Northern hemisphere may be covered in snow—and from the right view, it’s a thing of unrivaled beauty. Consider this 1994 shot of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula the mere tip of the iceberg as you scroll though our gallery of worldwide, winter wonderland photography. Here are 11 surprising facts about snow you’ve never heard before.
A ski bum’s dream
While you were skiing, here’s what the rest of the country looked like. Taken from the Skylab space station in January, 1974, this incredible shot captures the frost-covered Western United States south of the Black Hills, including Colorado Springs, the Black Forest, and South Park. Can you pick out the snow clouds from the snow?
A shot of ice and fire
This detailed view centers on the summit caldera of Mount Nemrut, a stratovolcano located in the eastern Anatolia region of Turkey along the shoreline of Lake Van,” NASA explains of this December 2008 shot taken from the International Space Station. “The geologic record indicates numerous prehistoric explosive eruptions during the Holocene Epoch, which, according to scientists, began approximately 10,000 years ago and extends to the present day with eruption of lava last observed during 1441.”
Winter in Appalachia
“NASA Terra spacecraft captured the snowstorm which swept across the eastern United States on December 4 and 5, 2002, bringing the season first snow to parts of the south and southern Appalachia,” NASA reports. You won’t believe these 20 mind-blowing facts about life in space on the International Space Station.
A labyrinth of ice
In this April, 1981 photo of India and China, “the Ladokh and Zaskar Ranges of the Great Himalaya are clearly etched by snow and shadow.”
Erie, Ontario, and the elements
This February, 1974 photo reveals a portion of the Great Lakes area as seen from the Skylab space station in Earth orbit. “The Niagara Falls area is in the center of the photograph,” NASA says. “Portions of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario, Canada are visible, but under nearly complete snow cover. Major structural features, drainage patterns, road systems and the cities of Buffalo and Toronto are easily distinguished and actually enhanced by the snow.” Learn about the science-backed reason you can “smell” snow.
The tendrils of Breckenridge
An October, 2008 snowfall couldn’t come soon enough for winter sportsmen in Colorado. “Located in a section of the Rocky Mountains which extend through central Colorado, Tenmile Range and Copper Mountain provide the ideal location and landscape for popular winter sports,” NASA says. “In this view, the Breckenridge and Copper Mountain ski areas are clearly visible as the snow covered ski runs stand out among the surrounding darker forest.”
Powder in the Grand Canyon
In this stunning March 1969 shot, “The Grand Canyon is sharply etched on the snow-covered Colorado Plateau in Arizona in this photograph from the Apollo 9 spacecraft during its Earth-orbital mission,” NASA writes. “Lake Powell behind Glen Canyon Dam is in the upper right corner. Humphreys Peak and the many volcanic craters around the San Francisco Mountains near Flagstaff, Arizona, are right of center.” Don’t miss these other 40 stunning photos of national parks covered in snow.
Ice runs downhill
The second-largest bay in the world, Canada’s Hudson Bay draws water from a nearly 1.5-million square mile drainage system. In February, 2000, “one of the astronauts aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour recorded this 70mm image of Hannah Bay, in the southern part of St. James Bay,” NASA writes. “The river is the Harricanaw River. Numerous shorelines around Hudson and St. James Bays are distinctive in winter because of snow cover.” Don’t miss these 13 things you never knew about space travel.
The Red Planet, white
No, those aren’t bushes; believe it or not, you’re looking at a c. 2000 photo of frozen sand dunes on Mars! “Because the martian air pressure is very low—100 times lower than at Sea Level on Earth—ice on Mars does not melt and become liquid when it warms up,” NASA writes. “Instead, ice sublimes—that is, it changes directly from solid to gas, just as ‘dry ice’ does on Earth.” As for those dark, shrub-like triangles? More sand. “The sand underneath the frost is dark, just like basalt beach sand in Hawaii.”
A snowball in space
Fortunately, this 2013 photo does not depict Earth. According to NASA: “Saturn moon Enceladus, covered in snow and ice, resembles a perfectly packed snowball in this image from NASA Cassini spacecraft.”
Like two ships passing in the theoretical night of space, one space station snaps a pic of another in this rare 2001 photo. “The International Space Station (ISS) backdropped against clouds and snow-covered mountains was photographed with a digital still camera from the Space Shuttle Discovery on March 18, 2001,” NASA writes. “It is a standard operation for the shuttle to make a final fly-around of the outpost following unlinking from it.” Next, check out these other 25 incredible pictures of famous landmarks covered in snow.