One early December image of snow cover in North Dakota was unlike most satellite images of snow on the ground.
Instead of a solid area of snow, the image above shows a patchwork quilt of snow and what appeared to be plots of land without snow cover.
According to Daryl Ritchison, director of the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network, those brown parcels were unharvested corn. Ritchison, who tweeted a zoomed-out version of this satellite image,
Satellite image from yesterday (250 meter resolution). I circled Fargo for reference. All the “brown” squares are corn still in the fields. Some clouds/shadows in the image as well. pic.twitter.com/XlRC7pB0oD
— Daryl Ritchison (@DarylRitchison) December 4, 2019
Daryl Ritchison told NASA’s Earth Observatory it doesn’t mean there isn’t snow on the ground in those fields, but instead the corn stalks are growing close enough to essentially shield the satellite from seeing snow cover in those unharvested fields.
North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin each had their record wettest fall in 125 years, according to NOAA. The wet autumn left some farmers no choice but to leave corn and other crops standing much later than normal, either due to muddy or snowy fields or crops that hadn’t dried sufficiently.