Satellites Track Huge Snow Storm's Approach to US East Coast (Video)

Two low pressure areas coming together on March 13, 2017 will likely cause a heavy snowstorm to hit New England overnight. The clouds associated with those low pressure systems were imaged by NOAA's GOES-East satellite.
Two low pressure areas coming together on March 13, 2017 will likely cause a heavy snowstorm to hit New England overnight. The clouds associated with those low pressure systems were imaged by NOAA's GOES-East satellite. (Image credit: NASA/NOAA GOES Project)

As a winter storm prepares to wallop the East Coast tonight and tomorrow (March 13 and 14), NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are keeping a close eye on the region with multiple satellites.

The latest predictions from the National Weather Service say a low-pressure system crossing the Midwest states and the Ohio Valley will merge with another low-pressure system off the southeast coast of the U.S. You can see a video of the storm as seen by the GOES-16 satellite here.

"This will allow for a strong nor'easter to develop near the coast and cause a late-season snowstorm from the central Appalachians to New England, including many of the big cities in the Northeast U.S.," according to forecasters from the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center (WPC) quoted in a statement from NASA.

"The heaviest snowfall is expected to occur from the northern Middle Atlantic to southern New England, where 12 to 18 inches [30 to45 centimeters] can be expected with localized amounts up to two feet [0.6 meters]," according to the WPC. "Strong winds could down trees and cause power outages."

From southern New Jersey to the Carolinas, residents can expect more than an inch of rain, according to the statement.

NASA's Aqua Satellite has already gathered infrared data — or heat data — on the storm, showing cloud top and ground temperatures. As cloud tops get higher, they also get colder and can strengthen a storm, the NASA statement said.

Aqua took measurements as it flew over the eastern U.S. today (March 13) at 3:35 a.m. EDT (0735 GMT). The satellite found that some cloud top temperatures were as cold as minus 63 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 53 Celsius) over a large area that included parts of Michigan, Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas. The satellite's findings suggest that snow will also stick on the ground, since East Coast temperatures on the ground were only 26 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 3 degrees Celsius).

The AIRS instrument aboard NASA's Aqua satellite spotted a low-pressure system on March 13, 2017. (Image credit: NASA JPL, Ed Olsen)


"Those storms have the capability to produce heavy precipitation, which in this case would be heavy snowfall rates," NASA said in the statement.

Meanwhile, NOAA's GOES-East (Geostationary Operational Environmental-East) satellite provided information in both infrared and visible wavelengths showing the path of the low-pressure system. NASA created an animation using the GOES-East data, which was collected between March 11 and 13.

The animation was created by overlaying cloud data from the satellite onto a true-color image of the ground and ocean. The true-color image came from data from MODIS, or the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, an instrument that flies aboard NASA's Aqua and Terra satellites.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: