Phenomena

Swirling Sea Ice

This satellite image shows sea ice breaking up off the coast of Russia in the Sea of Okhotsk in May 2023.

The Sea of Okhotsk is the northern hemisphere’s southernmost sea that seasonally freezes. Caught between the Siberian coast and the Kamchatka Peninsula, cold air from Siberia helps freeze water kept at lower salinity due to freshwater run-off. This image, taken in May 2023, shows free-floating sea ice forming spirals driven by wind and waves. Small islands off the eastern coast (right side in image) are likely responsible for the swirling eddies seen there. Like phytoplankton blooms and sediment swirls in warmer seasons, the sea ice acts as a tracer to reveal flow. (Image credit: W. Liang; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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