On December 23, 2001, less than two months before the start of the 2002 Winter Olympics, snow blankets Salt Lake City and the surrounding area. The Great Salt Lake, on the left hand side of the image above, often contributes to the regions snowfall through the lake-effect. As cold air passes over a large body of water it both warms and absorbs moisture. The warm air then rises (like a hot air balloon) and cools again. As it cools, the water vapor condenses out, resulting in snowfall. Just to the east (right) of the Great Salt Lake the mountains of the Wasatch Range lift air from the lake even higher, enhancing the lake-effect, resulting in an average snowfall of 64 inches a year in Salt Lake City and 140 inches in Park City, which is located at the foot of the Wasatch Front.
Great Salt Lake serves as a striking visual marker for astronauts orbiting over North America. A sharp line across its center is caused by the restriction in water flow from the railroad causeway. The eye-catching colors of the lake stem from the fact that Great Salt Lake is hypersaline, typically 3–5 times saltier than the ocean, and the high salinities support sets of plants and animals that affect the light-absorbing qualities of the water. Space Station astronauts have recorded the decline in lake levels in response to a regional 5-year drought taking both detailed views and broad views of the entire lake. As lake levels have declined the salt works have become islands in the middle of a dry lakebed.