Friday, February 04, 2011

Noordelijk half rond grotendeels kou en besneeuwd (

Most of Northern Hemisphere covered in snow and ice

At first glance it looks like a graphic from a Discovery Channel programme about a distant ice age. But this astonishing picture shows the world as it is today - with half the Northern Hemisphere covered with snow and ice.

The image was released by the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Association (NOAA) on the day half of North America was in the grip of a severe winter storm.

The map was created using multiple satellites from government agencies and the US Air Force.

That Antarctica, the Arctic, Greenland and the frozen wastes of Siberia are covered in white comes as no surprise. But it is the extent to which the line dips down over the Northern Hemisphere that is so remarkable about the image.

The shroud of white stretches down from Alaska and sweeps through the Midwest and along to the Eastern seaboard. The bitter cold has reached as far as Texas and northern Mexico where in Ciudad Juarez temperatures today were expected to dip to minus 15C.

In the U.S. tens of millions of people chose to stay at home rather than venture out. In Chicago, 20in of snow fell leading to authorities closing schools for the first time in 12 years. The newspaper for Tulsa, Oklahoma, was unable to publish its print edition for the first time in more than a century.

'A storm that produces a swath of 20in snow is really something we'd see once every 50 years - maybe,' said a U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist.

The NOAA image shows how the weather is affecting Scotland and begins in earnest from southern Germany, through Italy and down into Greece, Turkey and Iran. Northern areas of India and China are also affected.

The startling image was released on the same day Al Gore stepped up to defend his claim that global warming causes the bitterly cold weather. Thirty states in America are affected by a two-day blizzard.

Mother Nature's power is not confined to the top half of the world, of course.

Cyclone Yasi, with a destructive core of more than 20 miles wide, smashed into Queensland in north east Australian overnight with 186mph winds. Authorities are calling it the worst storm to hit the country for generations.