Earth Matters

March Puzzler

March 16th, 2015 by jallen


Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The March 2015 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what part of the world we are looking at, when the image was acquired, what the image shows, and why the scene is interesting.

How to answer. Your answer can be a few words or several paragraphs. (Try to keep it shorter than 200 words). You might simply tell us what part of the world an image shows. Or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure speck in the far corner of an image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it.

The prize. We can’t offer prize money, but, we can promise you credit and glory (well, maybe just credit). Roughly one week after a puzzler image appears on this blog, we will post an annotated and captioned version as our Image of the Day. In the credits, we’ll acknowledge the person who was first to correctly ID the image. We’ll also recognize people who offer the most interesting tidbits of information about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have played a role in molding the landscape. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend an institution that you want us to recognize, please mention that as well.

Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the last few months or work in geospatial imaging, please sit on your hands for at least a day to give others a chance to play.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some of our puzzlers after only a few minutes or hours. To give more people a chance to play, we may wait between 24-48 hours before posting the answers we receive in the comment thread.

Good luck!

52 Responses to “March Puzzler”

  1. Alev says:

    Runways of an airport on a Siberian plateu.

  2. amelia says:


  3. Chris says:

    Top and bottom of the image away from the two sub-parallel lines are probably the continuation of the road on land. The two sub-parallel lines are individual carriageways (roads) of an ice road across a frozen lake. Location is anywhere where it is cold enough for ice to be thick enough for trucks to be able to run on ice. Try Alaska/northern Canada (oilfield equipment or other supplies) or Siberia (ditto ). Northern wintertime.

  4. Jayvee says:

    Pipeline in northern America. The left part is the shadow of the right part. It spans across a snow covered valley.

  5. Dee Jay Tee says:

    At first I thought it has to be a railway line in the far north Siberia or China…..
    I still think it is in one of those areas (how accurate can that be? (Ha ha ha.)
    Now I suspect it could be a road transport system and the route is split to allow an option depending on severe weather conditions. There appears to be some habitation and could it be in Northern Canada or Alaska? Cheers.

  6. Matt says:

    Ice road truck lanes.

  7. MD DTAUWEL says:

    Suez Canal

  8. Torbjörn Ohlsson says:

    Its a car from Nasa how landing go one way and come back ! Wssf

  9. Jamie says:

    Ice truck road in the canadian north.

  10. Thomas Cook says:

    Alaskan pipe line

  11. James Simard says:

    April 10th, 2014. Northwest Territories. Landsat 8.

    More info:
    The world’s longest ice road connects Yellowknife to three diamond mines: Ekati, Diavik, and Snap Lake. Of the 475 kilometers (300 miles) of ice road, 86 percent of it is across frozen lakes.

    The ice road is the only overland supply route for the mines. Each winter, a year’s worth of fuel, construction material, heavy mining equipment, and explosives are trucked to the mines. The road provides the most cost-effective method for transporting these supplies.

    Open only 8–10 weeks of the year, the ice road is open from mid-January to March. It has to be rebuilt each year. Work on the road starts soon after Christmas. When the ice is 1 meter (42 inches) thick, it can support a truck fully loaded with over 40 metric tons (44 tons) of fuel.

    Full trucks traveling north have a strict speed limit of 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) per hour. Empty trucks heading south can use the express lane and go up to 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) per hour. The number of trucks the road handles per year varies. Just over 6,000 truckloads were driven north during the 2013 season.

    This place is so far north it’s too dark for satellite imaging in the middle of winter. Early summer, late summer, and late winter images are shown for comparison. There is still some ice on the lake in the July images. In the April images, the straight dark lines across the ice are the temporary roads.

    • Michael Bowen says:

      James is correct, I have found it on a web site @
      Good job James.

      • John Higgins says:

        How did you find that? Did you use some kind of image search software to search the internet?

        • Weabul Grey says:

          John Higgins

          I tried using a reverse search and got only this image. No other exists on the net that I can find.

          You might want to revisit your post in Google+… you might be surprised at how far-fetched the answers are becoming. If you terminate the discussion there, you will end my suffering in the same stroke.

          I thought we had until Friday, so I didn’t rush in. Several others predicted an ice road. I was surprised that many suggested Canada.

          Other predictions are much too numerous to mention, but included salt flats, false colour images, pipelines, snow fences, glacier movement, and one comment suggested an alien landing strip. Many were confused, thinking these might be images of some other planetary body.

          I know it’s all just fun and games, but it’s getting out of hand on that site.

          Weabul Grey

        • James Simard says:

          Hi John. I am a cartographer and look at elevation datasets and aerial imagery all day long. The long explaination:

          The coloring made it clear we were looking at snow or ice.The area appeared to have severa plateaus. I watch the Ice Road Truckers show on TV and it made me think of an ice road. The split makes total sense, since the trucks would need two lanes at some point to cross paths. So with this in mind I Googled ice road satellite to see if it I could find similar images. I found one of a diamond mine and searched again and actually found the link to EarthObservatory which had the original image and explanation.


  12. Jim Grealis says:

    The sloping side of a ridge or hill that is sand covered and a Mars whirlwind cut across it making leaving its trail.

  13. S Specht says:

    winter ice road in northern climes splitting into 2 one way separate lanes where it crosses a frozen lake

  14. Damo says:

    Looks like a canal, but can’t work out which one.

  15. Charles says:

    Wintertime truck route. Likely in Canada. When the road reaches a frozen lake, they scrape two lanes for traffic going each direction. When the road gets to land, the lanes return to an undivided route.

  16. Frank Landis says:

    Close-up of tecturized (e.g., stucco) wall or ceiling marred with a random pencil mark.

  17. Jeremie Roy says:

    À frozen lake.that.broke in Arctic.

  18. Andrew says:

    The Channel Tunnel

  19. Troy says:

    I think this is an inclusion in a glacier which has caused it to rupture along lines of deposition. It might be a gas.

  20. vishik says:

    it can be a magnified image of a rock

  21. Klaus says:

    somewhere in or near the middle-east. looks like an oil pipeline, coming out of the ground, traversing through the air, with the still rising sun casting a nice shadow on the ground next to the “pipeline”.

  22. John Higgins says:

    The clear area in the middle of the picture is apparently a clearing in a lake surrounded by windblown snow drifts and pressure ridges created by expanding ice. There appears to be trails leading on to the clear lake and people standing around on the lake. I would say the lefthand path of the two running down the lake is a snowmobile race track and the parallel path is a return path used by the snowmobiles to get back to the staging area. There are also a lot of people on another lake to the bottom right portion of the photo who may be ice fishing. The picture is obviously taken in the winter time somewhere in the Northern Hemisphere my guess is one of the Great Lakes or some other large lake in the northern United States possibly New York, Wisconsin, or Michigan.

  23. Ro Millham says:

    Trans-Siberia Railroad?

  24. Beth says:

    An ice road that divides into two lanes on a frozen lake

  25. Louis says:

    It looks like a railway configuration known as a “passing siding”, located in a valley (location unknown).

    The passing siding is used to allow multiple trains bi-directional travelon a single track – reducing the requirement for two separate tracks.

  26. neil says:

    Nevada salt flat

  27. Kathie Reicks says:

    Range rover tracks on Mars

  28. Sandro Nunez says:

    It is a old highway in Iceland.

  29. rafae mont says:

    Para mi es carretera que llega a un espacio llano y se divide en dos carriles uno para ir y uno para venir en direcciones contrarias para luego terminar en el otro extremo en una carretera sencilla en algun sitio como groelandiia o polo norte eso me parese

  30. David Andrews says:

    Being that the question regards NASA Earth Observing satellites, I’m going with … on Earth.

    A crack in an ice shelf, (it doesn’t look glacial) one of the poles, I’m guessing probably North because ice loss is more pronounced there. It could also be Greenland.
    A “crack”, because there is a visible continuation at both ends.
    If it were a vehicle track, I think the extensions at both ends would be as pronounced as the double lines.

    Formation could result from one or more influences, like seasonal or climatic warming, and tides. In Greenland, topographic rebound from the diminishing weight of the ice could present a force capable of that.

    The one clue ” where does it lead” lends credibility to the ice road idea, along with their very straight nature.
    Just pure speculation.

  31. Pablitos says:

    Iced lake

  32. rafae mont says:

    Para mi es una carretera sencilla y llega a un espacio amplio y se divide en dos carriles uno para ir y otro para venir luego llega al otro extremo y se reduce otra vez a una carretera sencilla y creo que esto es en algun lugar de Groelandia o polo norte estas carreteras pueden ser pistas de aviones digo en el espacio amplio y serian importante y de beneficio en lugar tan distante de la civilizacion eso es

  33. James Saulsbury says:

    Chunk of ice traveling downward through refrozen ice?

  34. Diane L. Henry says:

    I think the dark lines look like tire imprints in dirt. The area does not look earthly. Could those lines be made by the Mars Rover?

  35. Linda Kimbrel says:

    It’s a railroad track and siding. The secondary siding track is where one train safely pulls off the main track and waits, while a second train coming from the opposite direction on the same main track passes by. Then the first train pulls back on to the main track and continues on its way. The tracks are sharply visible against the snow covered ground.

  36. Jack Ward says:

    My guess is its the shifting of large boulders over time moving and their own weight that has been driven by wind and rain etc. leave an imprint.

  37. Krag says:

    Bonneville Salt Flats

  38. Frederik Klauser says:

    It looks like a road that reaches a frozen lake, where the lanes split up, because there is more open space. At the ens of the lake, the lanes close up again to one narrow road. Probably this is an important transport way, which is only available in winter time when the lake is frozen. The white landscape shows hills or small mountains, but is almost completely covered with snow. It must be somewhere in a northern country, where something big is transported with trucks in wintertime. It could be timber what they transport, thus the image could be taken somewhere in canada or alaska. May be even somewhere in russia.

  39. Shirley says:

    The Tibbett-Contwoyto Ice Road, NWT. My company works on the road every year.

    • tom murison says:

      that is Gordon Lake. I worked at Camlaren in the summer of 1974 on the lower east side of the lake. The lake is 900 feet deep in places, not to scare your truckers, but because the commercial fishermen who ice fished there in 1962 tested the depth. The largest lake trout they caught that year was 87 pounds. I understand that the mine site was demolished over twenty years ago. Sandy Point lodge is also on the at lake. I would be interested in how the truckers find the ice now. In 1974 the ice was still 6 feet thick in the third week of May, but was beginning to melt away from the shore in narrow leads. The ice road from Gordon Lake to Discovery exited from the bay at the middle of the west shore of the lake and followed several smaller lakes overland 35 miles. We had a 1937 Allis Chalmers caterpillar at the mine with a 13 mph road gear. It was used for cat trains in 1935 when the mine was constructed. No cab, the driver had to sit out in the open regardless of the weather. One of its uses was to haul the dynamite and caps from the twin otter to the blasting magazine a mile from the head frame, using a stone boat. All the best to your crew.

      t. murison

  40. Helen breeze says:

    Is it something to do with the pathway the narwhales make in the Arctic?

  41. Nickk says:

    Airport lane in Antarctica

  42. Christine Watts says:

    Death Valley…A boulder being blown across the Plain

  43. fernando says:

    Motorway or pipeline elevated crossing of a flat valley. The left hand side line is the shadow. Could be Alaska,Canada, north Europe or Siberia. I vote for Alaska

  44. jenifer says:

    The crack for nearly two-thirds of a mile measures close to 30 feet deep and is more than15 feet across at its wide spot locals found the geographical oddity when it split a rural road in half 50miles west of the city of Hermosillo in the Mexican state of the Sonora.

  45. Alvin wallace says:

    either one of the following: a piece of ice breaking off down in Antarctica, government experiment out in the Nevada desert, or oil pipeline. 🙂