A Closer Look at Snow

by / Friday, 04 February 2011 / Published in Blog - Space Log
{a reverse image of snowflakes (NASA/Walt Petersen)}

{a reverse image of snowflakes (NASA/Walt Petersen)}

Even though the groundhog may have seen his shadow yesterday, many parts of the United States are still experiencing harsh winter conditions of freezing temperatures, snow and ice. Did you know that scientists can use space technology to learn more about the weather and help communities prepare for blizzards to save resources and lives?

Huntsville, Alabama is known for its blazing hot summers and mild winters, but this past January, the residents of Huntsville received a large amount of snow. Several inches of snow fell on Jan. 9, but what was even more unusual was the occurrence of an event called a “thundersnow.” A “thundersnow” is a rare type of thunderstorm where snow falls instead of rain.


The “thundersnow” in Huntsville gave scientists at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center a chance to collect the most detailed snowfall information on record for this part of the United States. Scientists used laser imaging systems to measure individual snowflakes and how fast they were falling. The NASA team was able to follow the path of each flash of lightning to learn more about the electrical processes of thunderstorms.


Learning more about what is behind the weather helps us to be ready for big storms when they happen. How has the weather this winter affected your city or town? Did your school close because of snow and ice?