At first glance it looks like a graphic from a Discovery Channel programme about a distant ice age. But this astonishing picture shows the world as it is today - with half the Northern Hemisphere covered with ice and snow.
A new satellite map by the government agency NOAA shows the extent of the snow blanketing a vast area from the west coast of Canada to eastern China
The shroud of white stretches down from Alaska and sweeps through the Midwest and along to the Eastern seaboard. The bitter cold has reached as far as Texas and northern Mexico where in Ciudad Juarez temperatures today were expected to dip to minus 15C.
In the U.S. tens of millions of people chose to stay at home rather than venture out. In Chicago, 20in of snow fell leading to authorities closing schools for the first time in 12 years.The newspaper for Tulsa, Okalahoma, was unable to publish its print edition for the first time in more than a century.
This particular storm is the result from two clashing air masses which, if not unprecedented, is extraordinarily rare for its size and ferocious strength.
'A storm that produces a swath of 20in snow is really something we'd see once every 50 years - maybe,' said a U.S. National Weather Service meteorologist.
Louis Uccellini, director of the government's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, said the U.S. storm also drew strength from the La Nina condition currently affecting the tropical Pacific Ocean.
La Nina is a periodic cooling of the surface temperatures of the tropical Pacific Ocean, the opposite of the better-known El Nino warming. Both can have significant impacts on weather around the world by changing the movement of winds and high and low pressure systems.
Hundreds of drivers on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, which was blasted by 20 inches of snow, abandoned their cars in an almost apocalyptic scene as authorities closed the road
Louis Uccellini, director of the government's National Centers for Environmental Prediction, said the U.S. storm also drew strength from the La Nina condition currently affecting the tropical Pacific Ocean
The NOAA image shows how the weather is affecting Scotland and begins in earnest from southern Germany, through Italy and down into Greece, Turkey and Iran. Northern areas of India and China are also affected.
The startling image was released on the same day Al Gore stepped up to defend his claim that global warming causes the bitterly cold weather. Thirty states in America are affected by a two-day blizzard.
Writing in his blog Al's Journal, he said: 'As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now and they say that increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming.'
His response came after Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly challenged the former Vice President to give his thoughts on 'why southern New York has turned into the tundra'. Generally, the view put forward on global warming is that it would lead to expanding deserts and rising temperatures.
Mother Nature's wrath is not confined to the top half of the world, of course.
Cyclone Yasi, with a destructive core of more than 20 miles wide, smashed into Queensland in north east Australian overnight with 186mph winds. Authorities are calling it the worst storm to hit the country for generations.
The inside of a pickup truck that was stranded and left open on Lake Shore Drive on Wednesday shows the full ferocity of the blast as the white stuff almost covers the steering wheel
A scene from sci-fi film The Day After Tomorrow? No, these are cars stuck in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, after accidents and drifting snow stranded the drivers during last night's blizzard. As of late morning more than 20in of snow had fallen, making this snowstorm the third largest recorded in the city
Eileen Black takes pictures inside of a Chicago Transit bus that was stranded overnight. The blizzard caused havoc in a city well used to dealing with big snowfalls
You waiting? I'm walking! While one man waits for a bus in Chicago, another decides to make his way on foot through a snowstorm. A woman, right, wades through a snow drift in the city that comes up to her waist
By foot is the sure way to get to where you want to as this woman (left) and these men found
Coming through: A snowplough clears a street in a suburban area of Chicago
From one end of the U.S. to the other the impact of the blizzard has been felt. Left, a woman makes her way along an icy pavement in New York while, right, ice covers a statue in Ciudad Juarez, northern Mexico
Like bizarre creatures rising up out of the ground, these trees are clad in snow and ice after bitterly cold weather in northern Japan. Savouring the unique scenery skiers make their way downhill in at the Zao Onsen ski resort
The bitterly cold weather covering the northern hemisphere has meant that the Hei Longjiang river in north-east China has frozen so thickly that lorries can cross it from Russia leading to a boom in trade
The impact of extreme weather is being felt in north-east Australia where Cyclone Yasi has struck along the coast of Queensland. Here, outside Innisfail, motorists wait for water to subside over the Bruce Highway
Feb. 3, 2011
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