Blizzard in Nepal

Blizzard in Nepal
Blizzard in Nepal

Cyclone Hudhud slammed into India's southeastern coast on October 12, 2014, as a category 4 storm, unleashing destructive wind and rain on coastal towns. The impacts from the storm, however, didn't stop there.

After making landfall with sustained wind speeds of 217 kilometers (135 miles) per hour, Hudhud moved into central and northern India and Nepal. By October 14, the storm had weakened to a low-pressure system, but it still contained enough moisture to drop more than a meter of snow in the Himalayas. The blizzard created deadly conditions for the numerous trekkers in the area.

On October 11, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite acquired this natural-color image (top) of the Himalayas prior to the blizzard. Five days later, the instrument acquired a second view of the same area (bottom), showing the extent of the snowfall.

This area of Nepal is popular among trekkers for the Annapurna Circuit—more than 150 kilometers (90 miles) of trails in the mountain range northwest of Kathmandu. October is usually the start of Nepal's dry season, making it a favorable time of year to embark on the trek. This year, monsoon weather had retreated from western Nepal by October 2, according to the Nepal Meteorological Forecasting Division.

However, the dry season does not mean there won't be storms with significant precipitation. Cyclones over the North Indian Ocean can occur anytime from April to December. Unlike cyclones in other ocean basins, the tropical storm cycle peaks twice here—prior to the monsoon in April and May, and again just after the monsoon in October and November.

Post-monsoon storms have devastated the area before, notably in October 2005 when a snowfall-induced avalanche killed 18 climbers, according to the Nepali Times. Prior to that, a November 1995 blizzard claimed the lives of 24 trekkers on the Gokyo trail.

NASA images by Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Kathryn Hansen.

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