Can someone explain this aerial photo of the snowstorm approaching NYC?

There is this amazing aerial photo going around of the snowstorm approaching Manhattan from yesterday (Tuesday, Jan 21, I should say). However, while I can figure out the clouds and snow part, I can’t quite wrap my head around what exactly the rest of the photo depicts. I feel stupid and that makes me sad. So, I ask you all to make me feel smarter and thus less sad.

Here is the image, which I should credit to @karliekloss.

So… okay, the wall of clouds/snow is to the left. The flat section on the bottom is, I assume, the ocean? But that doesn’t quite jibe, because the dark section in the middle–which I assume is Manhattan–looks like it’s beneath the flat part on the bottom.

Then there’s the flat part on the north (of the photo, I have no idea what direction we’re looking at geographically). Its edge is a straight line. How is there any straight line geographically? It can’t be water. Plus, there’s another flat part that’s beneath that, that kinda looks like a bunch of fiords, which are also above the dark section that I thought is Manhattan.

Help! It’s an amazing picture for the clouds alone, but I’d like to get my bearings, especially since I’m actually in NYC and I feel even dumber for not figuring it out myself.

It is simply a picture of some clouds / a weather front over Shinnecock Bay on Long Island. It has nothing to do with today’s snowstorm or Manhattan.

Here is the location in Google Maps

The light-colored parts of the image are the ocean, the dark-colored parts are land. The ocean is that color because the sun is reflecting off of it and the land is under-exposed (dark) as a result.

The camera is located a few thousand feet in the air, near the text “Great Peconic Bay” on the map, looking south.

Oh. Now I see it! It was identified as NYC in the forum where I saw it posted, so it threw me.

But it does have to do with yesterday’s snowstorm. The woman who took the photo was in a plane on her way to Montego Bay when she snapped the shot just before the storm hit.

It’s an amazing pic. And now I see that the white section south of the seemingly perfect straight edge is also water (the Bay) and the dark part above it is also land, the sandbar of Shinnecock Country Park.

Thanks very much! You’ve got a good eye to figure out where it was so quickly. :slight_smile:

Barrier beaches can often be very straight for dozens of mile.

Thanks! Yep, once I realized it was a sandbar (and growing up on Long Island I really should’ve recognized it as one earlier) it made sense.

The only thing now that stumps me about the picture is the direction of the storm line, now that we know the date and time of the image (Tuesday morning), and also the fact that the image is basically “backwards and upside down” – the top is south, the bottom is north, right is west, left is east. It appears from this pic that the storm came in from the Atlantic and moved east to west.

An east - west trajectory seems unusual for snowstorms. I’m used to hurricanes moving in that direction, but in the winter it seems as if NY usually gets weather that first hits the midwest or other areas north/west of us. Am I reading the image correctly?

That’s why I said the image was unrelated to the storm. It may have been taken on the day of the storm but it is just some clouds over Long Island, it is not the snowstorm approaching NYC. The clouds are most likely being driven away from the city, to the east, by the approaching storm.

When did the snow hit? If you go to this link, it looks like it hit around noon (UTC time is 5 hours ahead of eastern time) and the sun looks pretty high in the photo.

Its not just some clouds. Its a cold front.
The warmer air is above the cloud layer, its got some water vapour in it…

Cold air is below.

The cold air is basically pushing up the warm… but then the warm air becomes cold…because both its touching the cold air, and because its reducing in pressure as it goes up.