LOST IN THE CLOUD: The U.S. is under there somewhere. (Photo: NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

As a giant snowstorm plowed across the U.S. this week, the GOES-13 weather satellite drifted 22,000 miles overhead, capturing all the snowy chaos in a single dramatic frame. The resulting image, pictured above, reveals just how big the storm became.

Operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA, GOES-13 regularly photographs weather in the Eastern Hemisphere, often producing impressive shots of tropical cyclones and hurricanes. But few storms match the size of this wintry behemoth, which dumped more than a foot of snow in several major U.S. cities on Feb. 1 and 2, including Chicago, Milwaukee and Oklahoma City.

The Groundhog Day blizzard was the seventh major snowstorm to hit North America during the winter of 2010-'11, just the latest in recent trend of so-called "Snowmageddons" or "Snowpocalypses." Many scientists blame the string of big storms on a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, a climate pattern that unleashes frigid Arctic air southward while warming the Arctic itself.

The February megastorm wasn't all bad news, though: Since it blocked out the sun on Groundhog Day, Punxsutawney Phil and other weather-predicting groundhogs didn't see their shadows, thus forecasting an early spring.

Also on MNN:

Russell McLendon ( @russmclendon ) writes about humans and other wildlife.

Photo: Groundhog Day blizzard from space
A NOAA satellite captures the February 2011 snowstorm as it blankets the U.S.