What we see in our "visible" satellite images is a good measure for albedo. Since clouds and snow are both white (they both have high albedos) they look similar on a visible satellite image:
|Fig 1 -- GOES-E Visible Satellite image for 1945Z, Feb. 4, 2011.|
|Fig 2 -- Same as in figure one, but with line showing the approximate extent of snow cover.|
We can also look at snow on the infrared satellite imagery. IR satellite images retrieve temperatures. Here's one from later yesterday afternoon:
|Fig 3 -- GOES E IR image from 2145Z, Feb. 4, 2011.|
|Fig 4 -- Same as in figure 3, but annotated to show the approximate extent of the snow cover. The red arrows point to places where the edge of the snow can be easily seen.|
So what we're observing in the infrared image is the thermal characteristics of the snow. That entire area of the country is showing as slightly cooler because there is snow on the ground. Since snow has a high albedo and is very reflective, not much sunlight is able to be absorbed by the ground and later re-emitted as long-wave radiation. As such, all that reflection off the snow keeps things colder wherever there is snow cover. But anyone who has lived in areas with snow knows this--it gets much colder out when there's still snow on the ground.
So there's a quick look at the snow on yesterday's satellite images. With so much snow (and such cold temperatures...) that snow will be sticking around for a while. I invite you to look at loops of visible and infrared satellite images over the next few days to see the snow pack (Remember...clouds move. Snow doesn't...but it can melt around the edges...). The links take you to the HOOT website where there are loops of both satellite images.