Skip to main content

EarthWatch: Ancient Silt in Svalbard

On the island of Spitsbergen, glaciers grind up sandstone, creating an abundance of fine sediment that stains the meltwater. 

Credits

Produced by the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Office of Public Outreach in collaboration with the NASA Earth Observatory: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/  

Transcript

(SPEECH)
[ELECTRONIC MUSIC]
 
(DESCRIPTION)
Text, Earth Watch. Exploring the Blue Planet by Satellite
 
An aerial view of ancient silt in Svalbard.
 
Text, Svalbard, an archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, is a destination for geologists.
 
It is one of the few places in the world that has easily accessible rocks from nearly every geological time period, from 4 billion years ago to present day.
 
Very little soil or vegetation covers the area.
 
Ocean currents also help keep much of the land clear of snow in the summer by moderating the weather.
 
During the warmest months, local glaciers release meltwater that is an intense shade of red.
 
The meltwater is colored by fine sediment eroded from a soft, 400-million-year-old iron-rich rock formation.
 
The silty meltwater forms a shallow lake where Holmstrom glacier ends.
 
A small drainage stream runs from the lake through the mud flats to open water.
 
When the red, silty water reaches the sea, it stays at the surface because the freshwater has a lower density than saltwater.
 
To learn more, go to: earth observatory dot nasa dot gov