Four large islands are hard to miss in satellite imagery of the Severnaya Zemlya archipelago in the Russian high Arctic. Spanning 37,000 square kilometers, (about the same area as the U.S. state of Indiana), about half of this archipelago is covered in ice. Despite its size and proximity to the Siberian mainland, the archipelago went unnoticed and unmapped until its discovery by an ocean expedition in 1913.
You won’t find any trees growing here. This is Arctic tundra, and cold, dry conditions prevail throughout the year. The average daily temperature in August, when this image was acquired, is 0 degrees C (32°F). Such conditions are quite favorable for year-round ice, which covers about half of the archipelago.
This image shows part of the island group on August 9, 2018, as observed by Landsat 8. In this view, you see ice caps dotting the surface and thin, broken sea ice choking the water in the straits. Some of the edges of the ice caps rest on land and others stretch over seawater. Ice loss occurs from surface melting and from the shedding of icebergs.
Image credit: NASA/USGS/Landsat
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