Spring brings lengthening daylight and warming temperatures, spurring the melting of sea ice across the Arctic. On May 16, 2091, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired a beautiful false-color image of swirls of thinning sea ice in the Labrador Sea off of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
In the height of winter, sea ice reaches maximum thickness. Thick ice becomes rigid. While thick ice may cling to the shore as fast ice or be broken into large chunks as it floats on a moving ocean, only thinner, more flexible ice can be swirled into filigrees and swirls. The ice in this image has begun to melt, allowing currents and winds to spin it into beautiful designs.
False-color imagery uses data from various bands on the MODIS instrument to highlight features that might not otherwise be easy to see. This image uses a combination of infrared and visible light (bands 7,2,1) to discern snow and ice from cloud. In a true-color image, snow, ice, and cloud would all appear white. In this image, however, both snow and ice appear electric blue, while cloud appears white. Deep water appears black and non-vegetated land appears tan.