Ice Floes along the Kamchatka coastline

The vantage point from orbit on the International Space Station (ISS) frequently affords astronauts with the opportunity to observe processes that are impossible to see on the ground. The winter season blankets the Kamchatka Peninsula of Russia in snow.

But significant amounts of sea ice can also form and collect along the Pacific coastline. As ice floes grind against each other, they produce smaller floes that can be moved by wind and currents.

The irregular southeastern coastline of Kamchatka provokes large, circular eddy currents to spin off from the main southwestward-flowing Kamchatka current. Three such eddies are highlighted by surface ice floe patterns at image center. The patterns are very difficult (and dangerous) to navigate in an ocean vessel.

Kamchatka coastline map

While the floes may look thin and delicate from the ISS vantage point, even the smaller ice chunks are several meters across. White clouds (image top right) are distinguished from the sea ice and snow cover by their high brightness and discontinuous nature.

via earthobservatory