Snow Hypothesis for the Holidays

Eneli Toodu
Dec 19, 2018 · 4 min read
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Photo Credit: Elen Toodu

Last year we applied Planet OS data to visualize the snow conditions during Christmas. This year, we decided to take a look a bit sooner to project whether or not we will have a snow-filled holiday season. For this analysis, we used a high-quality snow cover dataset and the Planet OS API.

Each year before the holiday season, snow is the main conversation topic among people in the Northern regions as they wonder whether there will be a snowy-white holiday season. But, it’s not only the people who eagerly anticipate snow during the holidays — seasonal snow is a very integral part of our planet’s climate system. It helps both regulate the temperature of the Earth’s surface and maintain a healthy energy balance. Additionally, water from snowmelt is crucial for replenishing rivers and reservoirs across the world. Snow can also affect the arrival of the summer monsoon season and influence how long it will last.

As the holiday season is about to begin, we wanted to apply our snow related datasets and forecast the upcoming snow cover. This week, we used a high-quality snow cover dataset from the Planet OS Datahub to visualize the snow conditions.

Modis/Terra Snow Cover Daily L3 Global

The National Snow & Ice Data Center (NSIDC) satellite-retrieved snow cover dataset provides daily observational data. It reports the percentage of snow-covered land in 0.05° (approx. 5 km) resolution Climate Modeling Grid cells. The percentages are computed from snow cover observations in the MODIS/Terra Snow Cover Daily L3 Global 500m Grid dataset. The dataset also provides cloud cover percentages.

The main variable in my analysis regarding snow cover for December 18th in the Northern Hemisphere is Daily snow extent. As MODIS uses visible light from Earth, the data is only collected during the daytime. Below, you will find the highlights from the analysis and I compared the results with last year analysis.

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Daily snow cover using Modis/Terra Snow Cover Daily L3 Global dataset.

Here are some of the things I discovered:

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Snow cover in Alps week before Christmas 2018 and 2017 Christmas

Through visualizing and analyzing the snow cover, we noticed some atypical results for some regions. Notably, snow cover has drastically changed over the course of a few days without any severe weather changes to speak of. For our readers who are experiencing these weather conditions first hand, we’d love to hear how our findings match the facts (or in this case snow) on the ground. As always, drop us a note on the Datahub or email me at

Many of the datasets made available through the Planet OS Datahub have been at the request of our users. For those who require a consolidated, easy to use, resource for accessing large and complex material that the Datahub does not already offer, please reach out to the team and we will work toward bringing it onboard. For more information check out the Planet OS Datahub.

Planet OS (by Intertrust)

Provided by Intertrust Technologies

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