Satellite tracks intense winter snowstorm across US East Coast

Satellites in orbit have captured stunning views of the powerful Nor'easter that dropped snow on a wide swath of the U.S. Northeast on Wednesday and Thursday (Dec. 16-17). The huge snowfall that buried Central Park in at least 10 inches (25 centimeters) of snow.

The GOES-16 satellite (sometimes called GOES-East in reference to its geosynchronous orbital position over the United States) continues to closely track the storm and send down imagery, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The New York Times reports several people died in the storm, and that some cities have been struggling to deal with the snow removal cost while already under budgetary strain from the pandemic. New York City was under its heaviest snowfall in years, while other cities and towns in the region had their own tremendous snowfalls to deal with.

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"It will bring significant snow, strong winds, and coastal flooding to much of the region," NOAA said of the storm on Twitter Wednesday (Dec. 16). Overnight, the satellite captured clouds and lightning stretching from the Appalachians to New England, all of which were under heavy storm warnings. 

GOES-16 still saw strong snowfall in the region in images beamed down Thursday morning, NOAA added on Twitter. During the worst of the storm, the National Weather Service said heavy snowfall of more than two inches (5 cm) per hour, and accumulations in excess of 12 inches (30 cm), were expected in most affected areas – although two feet of snow (60 cm) could fall in the Poconos (central Pennsylvania) and Catskills (southern New York) by storm's end.

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The orbit of the International Space Station also regularly crosses the region, although NASA and the American astronauts on board the orbiting complex haven't commented on the storm yet on Twitter. At times, the astronauts do provide imagery of major storms to assist with disaster prediction and relief.

While the storm was a significant strain on infrastructure and local resources, other more minor difficulties came from students accustomed to snow days, the New York Times added. Elementary school and high school students in NYC and Philadelphia remote-learning due to the pandemic were told to carry on with their studies, even with the potential of epic snow forts to build outside.

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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: