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California's Green Winter: Earth Image of the Week February 11, 2011
Satellite Image of India
A variety of landscapes ranging from deserts to snow-capped mountains, lush valleys and pine forests can be seen in this image from the Terra satellite.
Fields of emerald blanketed many inland valleys of Northern California on Groundhog Day, in sharp contrast to the stark, snow-covered landscape that prevailed over much of the Midwest and Northeast.

The springlike image of the region to the right was captured at midday on February 2, 2011, by NASA’s Terra satellite. Many parts of the East were being ravaged by a near-record blizzard and ice storm.

While the darkest greens are areas of conifer forest, the brighter greens are pastures and fields that have sprouted fresh growth thanks to a mild winter and ample wintertime rainfall.

Visitors to California from other states farther east are often surprised that the landscape is normally green in winter and covered in shades of brown over the summer months thanks to a decidedly Mediterranean climate.

This means that while much of the nation is blanketed with snow and dormant vegetation in January and February, California typically sports a verdant landscape after the new year.

The enlarged image reveals just how green many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area were in early February. The sprawling urban development from San Francisco southeastward to San Jose, and northward again to Oakland, appears as light brown and tan in the image.

Also clearly visible is the vast amount of snowfall covering the higher elevations of the Sierra Nevada. Some parts of the southern Sierra have received about two and a half times the normal snowfall this winter, which also has an unusually high amount of moisture thanks to regular La Niña-spawned storms.

With this supply of frozen water, agriculture and municipal water providers shouldn’t have to worry too much about shortages over the mainly rain-free summer as the melting snow replenishes the reservoirs below.

Image: NASA MODIS Rapid Response System