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Majestic Winter Wonderlands Viewed from Space
published during a waxing crescent moon.
01/04/2017

The weather outside is frightful. But the views are so delightful. While we can get some beautiful snow-covered images here on land, the viewpoint from space is glorious.

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

The frozen tundra of Russia lies in the northwest of the image, and snow-covered Alaska lies in the northeast. Sea ice extends from the land well into the Bering Sea. Over the dark water bright white clouds line in up close, parallel rows. These formations are known as “cloud streets.” Credit: NASA/Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC

Sometimes, satellites orbiting the Earth capture stunningly beautiful winter scenes, even some in very unexpected places. Stay warm and cozy while you look at these frosty photographs.

Snowy Sahara

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

The Atlas Mountains and the Saharan desert near the border of Algeria and Morrocco. Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and MODIS data from LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response.

The sweltering sands of the Sahara got a chilly wake-up call in late 2016 when snow fell on the Algerian town of Ain Sefra and the surrounding Saharan desert. This intemperate weather was beautiful while it lasted, but it didn’t last long, melting within a single day.

Hawaiian Ice

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

Snow coats the peak of the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Kea Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

Sure, you’ve heard of Hawaiian shave ice, but snow in this tropical paradise? It’s not as rare as you might think. On the high peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, snow sometimes falls in the chilly atmosphere caused by the high altitudes. Both mountains are over 4,100 meters tall. Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano is the site of several space telescopes and observatories, while it’s similarly snow-capped companion, Mauna Loa, remains volcanically active.

Dusted Desert

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

Snows dust the Taklimakan Desert in western China in 2013. Image Credit: NASA/Aqua

Like the Sahara, China’s Taklimakan Desert doesn’t usually get much snow, but occasionally, temperatures will drop just as a storm moves in, creating the perfect conditions to add drifts of snow to the piles of sand that stretch up to 300 meters high. The sand and snow here accumulate in the miles of desert fenced in by three mountain ranges. This image was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite in 2013.

North American Blizzard by Moonlight

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

A huge winter storm with blizzard conditions bombarded the Eastern United States in January 2016. Image Credit: NASA/VIRS

From space, the blizzard-like conditions that blanketed northeastern North America in January 2016 look peaceful. But on the ground was a very different story. In some areas, 30 inches of snow fell in high hurricane force winds. This image of the huge storm was taken by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite. The storm clouds are illuminated by moonlight, and the lights of the cities below glow through the chilly destruction.

Cold Krakow

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

Poland’s second largest city is swathed in a blanket of snow in this 2010 picture. The river snaking through the ancient city is the Vistula in the upper portion of the image.

Fire and Ice

Majestic Winter Wonderlands

Snow covers this volcano on Russia’s Kamchatka Penninsula. Image Credit: ESA through SSTL

Russia’s Kliuchevskoi volcano (also spelled Klyuchevskoy) is one of the tallest volcanoes on the Kamchatka Peninsula, and also one of the most active. But it’s not always so fiery. In this image from 2005, the 100-kilometer tall volcano looks positively serene cloaked in a mantle of snow.