Streaks of Sea Ice

Satellite image showing several kinds of sea ice near Antarctica.

As summer approaches in the Southern Ocean, sea ice melts, but the process is not purely one-way. Temperatures in some locations are cold enough for some limited new freezing. The result is a mix of ice conditions like those seen here. The oldest, thickest ice is part of the ice shelf in the image’s lower right. Normally, younger sea ice would nestle against this shelf, but strong winds have blown that ice north-eastward.

In the open waters between, delicate frazil ice — tiny needle-like crystals — forms. The wind, coupled with the wave motion, drives the frazil ice together to form streaks of nilas, which eventually accumulate into a layer along the older, broken, windswept ice. (Image credit: J. Stevens/USGS; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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