On March 29, 2023, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a true-color image of a gorgeous pattern on the Sea of Okhotsk. While the white-on-black design may look like abstract art, it actually is formed by sea ice floating on the frigid waters off of Sakhalin Island. Sakhalin Island sits off of Russia's Far East and north of Hokkaido, Japan.
Each winter, sea ice expands over the Arctic Ocean as well as seas around and south of the Arctic Circle. The Sea of Okhotsk, which extends southward to 44˚North latitude, is one of the lowest latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere where sea ice routinely forms in abundance. As air temperatures warm and daylight lengthens in the spring, the ice cover begins to melt, becoming thin. The thinning ice may stretch into fanciful designs and filigrees when pushed and pulled by the action of currents, wave action, or wind.
This mass of ice likely started forming further north and has been carried southward by the Sakhalin Current, which flows southward along the east coast of Sakhalin Island.