White-laced boot

By Phil Plait | February 15, 2012 10:05 am

It’s been cold and snowy here in Boulder, but Europe is getting hit far harder: they’re having record freezes, and over the weekend Italy got a huge pile of snow dumped on them too, the largest in about 30 years. It’s closed airports and disrupted a lot of the daily activity… but from space, it’s actually quite beautiful:

[Click to molto embiggiano.]

The clouds and snow make it hard at first to see Italy, but it runs from the upper left to lower right in this picture, taken by the European Space Agency’s Envisat. The Adriatic Sea is above Italy, and the Tyrrhenian Sea below. You can just see a piece of Sicily, and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia are visible as well.

I’m always amazed at the perspective of space. Disasters, trouble, and the frailty of life are so apparent when you’re in their midst, but they fade rapidly with distance. It doesn’t make them any less real or any less terrible, but it does provide a longer view that all of us, perhaps, can use sometimes.

Image credit: ESA

Related posts:

Buonanotte, Italia
Claire de lune
Crown of the Dolomites
Snowpocalypse 2011 from space!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Pretty pictures
MORE ABOUT: Envisat, Italy, snow

Comments (12)

  1. Sam42

    *siiigh* I lived in Italy until December 2011… I miss it!

    Beautiful picture, though.

  2. SkyGazer

    We had for the second weekend snow here at Menorca (Baleares, Spain).

    And this is the 3rd year in a row we had snow. And the sixth time since 2000!!
    Normally snow was a once or twice in a lifetime.

  3. llewelly

    oh look! An usually harsh winter over 1% of the globe! Global Warming must be a hoax!!!

  4. Jeff

    very good picture of the snow. Looks like they particularly got northeastern winds which dumped snow mostly on the northeast faces of the mountains, and rome naples were more in the dry rainshadow or snowshadow.

  5. Peptron

    Everybody knows that the remaining 99% of the globe is part of the conspiracy! Why else would it be… spherical… and… full of lava…?

    /end free association

  6. CameronSS

    Wouldn’t that be a white boot with green laces?

  7. Messier Tidy Upper

    For those who haven’t seen it already an explanation here :


    HIRGO~wise for why the northern hemisphere might have been enduring colder than usual winters lately.

    With another good article here :


    on that. Plus see :


    for more about that too.

    Note as well that more energy + more moisture in the atmosphere means more snow in winter.

    I think folks will also find that the climatologists never said global warming overheating means an end to *all* cold winters and snowstorms everywhere immmediately. It was always going to be – and obviously is a lot more complicated than that & different regions are affected in different ways with some (eg.Arctic) warming faster and more dramatically than others.

  8. CS

    It was beautiful also on the ground. Rome did get quite a bit of snow, although not as much as other parts of Italy. Of course, the main problem here is that we are not equipped for snow, nor are our trees. So chaos ensued, and many plants were lost.

  9. DrFlimmer

    Interestingly, until late January the winter was quite warm in Europe. In November Germany faced something like a draught (not really that severe, but compared to usual Novembers we had close to no rain!). December and most of January were also particularly warm. Only a few weeks ago the wind direction (and thus the weather) changed. The cold air from Siberia entered from the east and the temperatures dropped below -10°C rapidly.

    In fact, the last three or four winters were quite cold in Germany. Before that, winters where I live (Ruhr area) used to be ugly, temperatures around 0°C and rain. Now, we face severe cold periods with -10°C and lower (as this year) and quite a lot of snow (although, this time we didn’t have snow; it has just been cold).

    Since this already seems to be a trend (maybe not significant, yet – but still), it could be a forebode of what will come if we don’t act quickly (and not wait until 2020 and later…).

  10. Jeffersonian

    The crazy part is that is peninsular Italy (not the Alps, where snowfall is accade sempre; & you can see it missed the Dolomites in the upper left).
    Check out the delineation of the Po.

  11. John EB Good

    @llewelly: Yes, Global Warning must certainly be a hoax. (read entirely before flaming me)

    My wife and sister in law both regularly cross the pond to Europe for their work and no longer know what to carry in their luggages to deal with European weather. ‘Cuz, here, in Montreal, Canada, it’s allready spring time. I see grass in my backyard where there should normally be over a meter of snow. The city’s snow removal crews worked only once this winter and were so bored that two nights ago, they actually spreaded snow in the streets instead of removing it. (must be because they were too close to getting their unemployment benefits!)

    In fact, since the begining of this century, I remember only the winter of 07/08 as looking and feeling «Canadian».

    Personnally, I prefer to call this «Climate Change» way before «Global Warming» even though the later leads to the former. Though no aging Canadians will cry over their snow shovels becoming another useless thing cluttering their garages.

    Few people can rely with mean global temperatures, especially if you’re an European around this time of the year. T’was the same ordeal last year, in France, too. But crazy and unusual weather, most people can relate to and feel for real. Personally, I’m seriously considering selling my snowblower to some distant French cousin.

    You can deny you neck-o-tha-world is warming, it’s fair play and may be even true. But it’s way harder to say with the same confidence that more and more regional climates are not changing. One may hope it’s a freak statistical incident and «normal» winters will come back, next winter or in a couple of years, but nowadays, it’s the huge snowfalls, the regular winters of the 70s, that are becoming the freak statistical incident. Unfortunately, when the numbers will confirm this with enough evidence to convince the deniers, it will certainly be too late to do anything about it. Do they make you think about this coyote in the cartoon that only knows for sure he overshot the cliff when he starts accelerating at 3,8 meters per second squared?

    Ciao, from the place formerly known as the Great White North.

  12. Richard Aitken

    Well John EB Good, I live across the pond, I’m quite mature in age, where I live is normaly (the last 100 years at least) too mild for snow in winter but we have been snowed in for the last 4 years, with the average temperture decreasing every year since the mid 1990’s. Not only is my ‘neck-o-tha-world’ cooling by global tempertures have been decreasing the last 14 years. This is real, not some model.
    I have one question for you John, When it warms up again John are you going to use the phrase ‘Global Warming’ again?


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