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Deconstructing a Mystery: What Caused Snowmaggedon? | by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
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Deconstructing a Mystery: What Caused Snowmaggedon?

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on February 7, 2010, showing part of the region affected by the “Snowmageddon” winter storms.


Credit: NASA Goddard/MODIS Rapid Response Team



In the quiet after the storms, streets and cars had all but disappeared under piles of snow. The U.S. Postal Service suspended service for the first time in 30 years. Snow plows struggled to push the evidence off of major roads. Hundreds of thousands of Washington metropolitan residents grappled with the loss of electricity and heat for almost a week.


By Feb. 10, 2010 the National Weather Service reported that three storms spanning from December to February in the winter of 2009-10 had dumped a whopping 54.9 inches of snow on the Baltimore-Washington area. The snowfall broke a seasonal record first set in 1899. Snowmaggedon, as the winter was dubbed, entered the history books as the snowiest winter on record for the U.S. East Coast.


Two years later, scientists are still searching to identify the unique set of conditions that enabled storms of this magnitude to occur. To determine a direct cause to infrequent but major winter storms, Siegfried Schubert and colleagues Yehui Chang and Max Suarez – all of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., became detectives.


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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.


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Taken on February 9, 2012