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Snowpocalypse Now: Anchorage Smashes Snowfall Records

Satellite View Anchorage Alaska October 2023 Annotated

Satellite view around Anchorage, Alaska, captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on October 26, 2023.

Satellite View Anchorage Alaska November 2023 Annotated

Satellite view around Anchorage, Alaska, captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on November 19, 2023.

The Alaskan city of Anchorage received record snowfall in November 2023.

Winter weather arrived in force in Southcentral Alaska in 2023. Anchorage logged its snowiest November since recordkeeping began in 1953—and it reached that mark just over halfway through the month. In addition, a nearby mountain pass came close to the national record for 24-hour snowfall.

Satellite Images Show Drastic Changes

The images above capture the transition to winter in and around Alaska’s most populous city. They were acquired by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on NASA’s Aqua satellite on October 26 (upper), before any significant snow had fallen in Anchorage, and November 19 (lower), two days after enough snow accumulated to set a new monthly record there. At that point, ground-based measurements at the National Weather Service Anchorage office had recorded 39.1 inches (993 millimeters) of snowfall in November, topping the previous record of 38.8 inches (985 millimeters) from 1994.

Intense Snowstorms and Their Impact

Much of the snow—about 20 inches (500 millimeters)—fell during a storm lasting from November 8–10. New daily snowfall records for November 8 and 9 were set during that storm. It caused power outages, treacherous road conditions, and office closures, according to news reports. Another storm, which dropped nearly 9 more inches on November 13, added to the challenging conditions and prompted schools to switch to remote learning for several days.

Extreme Snowfall in Mountainous Regions

Outlying mountainous areas saw far more accumulation. Thompson Pass in the Chugach Mountains, about 140 miles (220 kilometers) east of Anchorage, reportedly received 72 inches (1.8 meters) of new snow on November 8. That total, measured in one of the snowiest places in the state, approached the century-old U.S. record for snowfall in a 24-hour period. Silver Lake, Colorado, still holds the top spot from April 1921, when 76 inches (1.9 meters) fell in the Rocky Mountains.

NASA Earth Observatory images by Wanmei Liang, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

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