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Britain’s big freeze (picture from space)

Snow covers the entire island of Great Britain on January 7, 2010, in this image captured by NASA’s Terra satellite passing from the east to the west coast overhead.


“The cities of Manchester, Birmingham, and London form ghostly gray shapes against the white land surface. Immediately east of London, clouds swirl over the island, casting blue-gray shadows toward the north,” NASA’s Earth Obervatory Web site says in a caption.

On January 7, overnight temperatures had plunged to -18 degrees Celsius (-0.4 degrees Fahrenheit) in isolated spots, with more widespread temperatures of -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit). The heavy snowfall downed power lines, leaving several thousand homes in southern England without electricity, NASA said.

“A contributor to the persistent cold and snow across much of the Northern Hemisphere’s mid-latitudes in December 2009 and January 2010 could be the fact that the atmosphere was in an extreme negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation (AO),” NASA explained. “The AO is a seesawing strengthening and weakening of semi-permanent areas of low and high atmospheric pressure in the Arctic and the mid-latitudes. One consequence of the oscillation’s negative phase is cold, snowy weather in Eurasia and North America during the winter months. The extreme negative dip of the Arctic Oscillation Index in December 2009 was the lowest monthly value observed for the past six decades.”

NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Original caption on Earth Obervatory Web site by Michon Scott.