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using the visible satellite for snow conditions

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using the visible satellite for snow conditions

Postby SSSdave » Sat Jun 10, 2006 12:47 pm

Many in early summer are wondering how much snow is up in those Sierra areas they may be considering visiting. Since satellite weather information became available, I have been using the readily available visible satellite information to rougly indicate where the snow lines at elevations are at. For instance the below image was loaded today 6-10-2006 late morning and an incremental each half hour image is always available at West Coast NWS sites like:

The better images for the purpose of evaluation are late mornings on clear cloudless days. I upsized the below image x2 in order to be able to annotate with readable text. As someone that has lots of maps and is forever perusing them many over many years, I know where most of the subtle areas shown in white are without even bothering to pull my topos out. For the rest of you, one might bring up maps on and do likewise.

Among the things we can see here is that around Tahoe lots of snow is still covering the main higher areas of the Crystal Range of Desolation Wilderness. I was thinking of an early 2/3 day backpack up to Susie and Heather Lakes and can see that area is now black. In a week it might be fine for a visit. Generally areas north of Sonora Pass are snow free below the high ridges and crest while many high ridges southward still have total coverings of snow. Looking up the Tuolumne River drainage, we can see the snow has melted up along the Tuolumne into Lyell Canyon. The Cold Mountain area with Mattie and Virginia Lakes shows as a small dull grey color patch indicating partial snow coverings. Further south in the San Joaquin River drainage, one can make out where Mono, Bear, Piute, Evolution, and the upper SFSJ River canyons darken into the white snowy areas. I'd say Bear Ridge looks totally black while Evolution Valley has just a narrow dark snow free area at its bottom. In the Eastern Sierra, isolated Mammoth Mtn sticks out as does the pointy 11k+ ridge of Table Mountain splitting the Bishop Creek branches. Further south the crest areas east of the Kern are not showing much snow anymore.

Now when I zoom in several times, I can see...see...see someone fording Bear Creek on a log...oops there they go down stream. ...David ... IS1MRY.GIF


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Postby Jim » Sat Jun 10, 2006 8:05 pm

A related tool from NOAA/National Weather Services is on their "National Snow Analyses 3D Interface" page at This can be used in conjunction with Google Earth or anything else that uses KLM overlays. Google Earth gives satellite maps plus elevations with an inteface that lets you zoom and hover or fly over terrain from various elevations. NOAA gives color shaded overlays with snow depth, water content, etc. The resolution is much better than the 1 km satellite maps. You can "fly" around the area where you are planning to hike, looking for where north or east facing slopes still show snow cover. Very slick.

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