Ice Floes Along the Kamchatka Coastline

on April 9, 2012 11:43 AM EDT

Kamtachtka
White clouds (image top right) are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover by their high brightness and discontinuous nature. (Photo: NASA)

The vantage point from orbit on the International Space Station (ISS) frequently affords astronauts with the opportunity to observe processes that are impossible to see on the ground. The winter season blankets the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia in snow, but significant amounts of sea ice can also form and collect along the Pacific coastline. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and currents.

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The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka provokes large, circular eddy currents to spin off from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current. Three such eddies are highlighted by surface ice floe patterns at image center. The patterns are very difficult (and dangerous) to navigate in an ocean vessel. While the floes may look thin and delicate from the ISS vantage point, even the smaller ice chunks are several meters across. White clouds (image top right) are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover by their high brightness and discontinuous nature.

The Kamchatka Peninsula also hosts many currently and historically active stratovolcanoes. Kliuchevskoi Volcano, the highest in Kamchatka (summit elevation 4,835 meters) and one of the most active, had its most recent confirmed eruption in June 2011. Meanwhile, Karymsky Volcano (to the south) likely produced ash plumes just days before this image was taken; the snow cover on the south and east sides of the summit is darkened by a cover of fresh ash or melted away altogether (image bottom center). By contrast, Kronotsky Volcano-a "textbook" symmetrical cone-shaped stratovolcano-last erupted in 1923.

Source: Earth Observatory

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