Rare Mideast Snowstorm as Seen from Space

By Tom Yulsman | December 13, 2013 5:26 pm
Mideast snowstorm Turkey Cyprus

An animation of false-color satellite images of southern Turkey and the island of Cyprus. Snow cover shows up in bright red and orange tones. Clouds show up in white and peach tones. (Images: NASA. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

After causing havoc, and bringing misery to hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees displaced from their homes by civil war, the rare snowstorm that lingered over the Mideast and Turkey began to ease today.

Video and photographs showing the impact of the snowstorm have received widespread attention over the past few days. So I thought I would showcase some imagery that you may not have seen yet: Views of the storm and its aftermath as seen from space.

The animation above consists of false-color images from NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. The island toward the bottom of the frame is Cyprus; southern Turkey is to the north. The false-color scheme in the animation is particularly effective at highlighting snow cover, which is seen in bright red and orange tones. Clouds appear white and in peach tones.

The first image in the animation was captured on Dec. 8th, before the snowstorm. Some snow cover is evident in the mountains of Turkey. But there’s none in the highlands of Cyprus. The second image comes from today (Dec. 14). The expansion of snow in Turkey is quite evident, and now the mountains of Cyprus have turned bright red, indicative of snow. (For a detailed explanation of this kind of false-color imagery and how scientists use it, see this post from NASA’s MODIS web site.)

The next animation shows the scene on the same days, but this time in natural color.

Mideast Snowstorm Turkey Cyprus

Click to watch an animation of natural-color satellite images from before and after the snow storm. (Images: NASA. Animation: Tom Yulsman)

Once again, you can see snow cover expanding in Turkey. And today, the mountains of Cyprus are capped in white.

In the next animation, you can see the storm swirling over the region. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are in the south, at the very bottom of the image. Turkey is about in the middle, with the Black Sea immediate to its north.

Mideast Snowstorm Meteosat Precipitation

This visualization shows precipitation estimates based on data from a polar-orbiting satellite and infrared images from a Meteosat weather satellite. (Source: EUMETSAT)

Precipitation in milimeters

The animation is a little different from the others in that it provides an estimate of the rate of precipitation. The data come from microwave measurements taken by a polar-orbiting satellite and infrared imagery captured by the METEOSAT satellite. As seen in the animation, the highest rates of precipitation were over Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria.

To round things out, here are some Tweeted photos from across the region:

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Global Warming is burning the Earth to cinders freezing us all to death. Double the Carbon Tax on Everything!

    • Tom Yulsman

      Dear “Uncle Al”: You’re free to be a curmudgeon with nothing serious to say here at ImaGeo. But in that case, I hope you’re not expecting to be taken seriously.

      • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

        There is a nice meteorite field in the Middle East, and vast underground petroleum depots, and fossil water, and weather that happens and fluctuates. Differentiate among hitting a hole in one, digging the cup after the ball lands, and finding a crease in the green that fills the clown’s mouth. I see a politically vast expanse of #2, followed by revenue generation, all of it leveraged by happenstance.

        • Tom Yulsman

          Well, that surely explains it.

  • Stephen Duvall

    Was there not snow in #Jerusalem when Jesus was born?

    • Tom Yulsman

      Snow is not unusual in the highlands east of the Mediterranean during winter. What was unusual about this storm was its duration and severity, as well as the fact that it occurred so early in the cold season. Elsewhere, such as Cairo, snow is quite unusual.

    • Cristian Aguilera

      Where, in the Bible, does it say there was snow in the City of David when Jesus was born? I’m interested to know the version you are using, for I have never heard or read this passage.

      • Stephen Duvall

        There is none that do!

        • Cristian Aguilera

          And with this answer, you accept that your comment is fallacious, and it displays a great deal of your ignorance, right?

          • Stephen Duvall

            I can only agree that your arrogance answer all I need to know about you!

            I challenge you to prove to me that there was no snow cover in Jerusalem when Jesus was born!

            Then we will talk about beliefs, My beliefs are based of facts I have assumed to be correct to my own interpretations!

            If you read my initial post correctly is was not a statement, it was rather a question and was proclaimed as one based on its punctuation!

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Mike Shefler

            Well, of course there was snow, How else did Santa get there?

          • Stephen Duvall

            LMAO, There are many interpretations of the bible, the most scientifically accurate would indicate a more warmer time of the year so snow would have been a little far fetched. The commercialized celebration of Jesus birth leads you to believe there was snow. I guess you would have to been there to really know!



ImaGeo is a visual blog focusing on the intersection of imagery, imagination and Earth. It focuses on spectacular visuals related to the science of our planet, with an emphasis (although not an exclusive one) on the unfolding Anthropocene Epoch.

About Tom Yulsman

Tom Yulsman is Director of the Center for Environmental Journalism and a Professor of Journalism at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He also continues to work as a science and environmental journalist with more than 30 years of experience producing content for major publications. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, Audubon, Climate Central, Columbia Journalism Review, Discover, Nieman Reports, and many other publications. He has held a variety of editorial positions over the years, including a stint as editor-in-chief of Earth magazine. Yulsman has written one book: Origins: the Quest for Our Cosmic Roots, published by the Institute of Physics in 2003.


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