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The Pacific Northwest
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The Pacific Northwest

May 17, 2012
On May 12, 2012, cloud free skies greeted the Aqua satellite as it passed over the Pacific Northwest, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument flying on board to capture this stunningly clear image.

Canada lies at the top of the image, and seven states can be seen south of the Canada-United States border. Washington, Idaho and Montana form the top row, from west to east. Oregon lies south of Washington. The final row is comprised of California, Nevada and Utah.

Snow lies atop the mountain peaks in the northern states and in California. In the arid interior states, particularly Nevada and Utah, the white splotches mark salt pans – natural depressions that once held salty water and have since dried out, leaving highly reflective expanses of salt on the surface of the tan land. The Great Salt Lake can be seen in northern Utah. It is a highly salty body of water and the largest saltwater lake in the Western Hemisphere. Bonneville Flats lies to the west of lake in northwestern Utah.

On May 13, Accuweather.com described the weather across the Pacific Northwest as a “summer preview”. An offshore wind blew air across the warm interior and out to the ocean, keeping the cooling ocean air at bay and causing warming conditions. In fact, the sunny skies and offshore wind set up a potential for near-record warm temperatures for several days. Further south, in California, the winds were blowing onshore, causing cooler temperatures with potential for the formation of fog.

The warm temperatures and sunny skies of the Pacific Northwest were not expected to last, however. A weak cold front is predicted to move into the area by May 15, turning winds onshore and bringing cooler temperatures. This front may also spark thunderstorms with little accompanying rainfall in Oregon and California, increasing the risk of wildfires.

Credits: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


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