EarthWatch: Patterns in the Laptev Sea

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A colorful mixture of dissolved organic matter and sediments help trace the Arctic sea’s currents and eddies.

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory:

Adaptation to ViewSpace by Claire Blome, Margaret W. Carruthers, and Dani Player
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Text, Earth Watch, Exploring the Blue Planet by Satellite. A view of snowy terrain at the edge of a continent, viewed from space, with the blue ring of the atmosphere arcing around the horizon as the sky transitions to space. Patterns in the Laptev Sea. Snow, bedrock, and green and blue water swirl together like smudged paint. Earth Observatory. Earth Observatory dot NASA dot gov. Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer, Aqua Satellite. Text, Every summer, Arctic sea ice melts and briefly pulls away from the Siberian coast, clearing the Lena Delta and Laptev Sea. 

This image from the Aqua satellite shows the region in mid-September, when inland fresh water still flowed unimpeded into the sea. Text, September 10, 2020. The Lenna Delta is marked forming a peninsula in the Laptev Sea off the coast of Russia. 

The colorful mixture of dissolved organic matter and sediments trace the water's otherwise invisible currents and eddies. 

Some of the brown and green color is organic matter, debris from leaves, branches, and peat, dissolved in the river water before it's carried out to the Arctic Sea.
The rivers also carry suspended sediments--sand- and silt-sized rock and mineral grains that eventually settle out to build the delta.
The detailed patterns the Laptev Sea are real, but certain shades and tones of color have been filtered to make the sediment and dissolved organic matter stand out in the image.
Arctic Sea ice typically reaches a minimum in September and begins freezing again by October.
This year, however, unusually warm air and ocean water have delayed the freeze.
The region is likely to be clear of ice for much longer than normal.
To learn more, go to: earth observatory dot nasa dot gov.