Quartet of Snowy Cascade Volcanoes

Quartet of Snowy Cascade Volcanoes

Today’s Image of the Day is part of a series highlighting wintertime photographs of Earth shot by astronauts on the International Space Station. View the full collection here.

The wintertime sky was mostly cloud-free on February 10, 2022, when the International Space Station passed over the Cascade Mountains. Four of the range’s prominent volcanoes—Rainier, St. Helens, Adams, and Hood—were on full display that day when an astronaut on the orbiting laboratory took this photograph.

A ridge of high pressure offshore brought drier-than-normal conditions to much of the U.S. West for the first half of the month. Such high-pressure systems can cause the air aloft to sink, eliminating high- and mid-level clouds. They can also lead to temperature inversions, when warm air above acts like a lid and traps cooler, denser air close to the surface. As a result, low level clouds and fog can form.

Over several days in February 2022, dense fog hung in the lowlands between the Cascade and Coast ranges in Washington and Oregon. Some of that fog is visible in the bottom-right corner of this image where it filled valleys along the west side of the Cascades. Note that north is oriented toward the bottom-left of this image.

The dry spell followed an especially wet autumn and early winter in 2021-2022, bringing ample snowfall to the Cascades and its eastern slopes. Snow still covered the higher elevations and eastern slopes at the time of this image.

Even in summer, the iconic volcanoes are still capped with white snow and glacial ice. Mount Rainier, the range’s tallest peak at 14,410 feet (4,393 meters), contains more than five times the glacier area of all the other Cascade volcanoes combined, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Mount Baker, a volcano located about 130 miles (210 kilometers) north of Mount Rainier and beyond the scope of this image, comes in second.

Astronaut photograph ISS066-E-140837 was acquired on February 10, 2022, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 130 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 66 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Story by Kathryn Hansen.

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