Part of the Russian Federation, the archipelago of Novaya Zemlya consists of two big islands—Yuzhny in the southwest, and Severny in the northeast—separated by a narrow strait. The archipelago divides the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea.
An ice cap covers much of Severny, and from this ice cap, several outlet glaciers flow seaward. The easternmost glacier on Severny’s southeastern coast is Roze. On June 5, 2011, the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite captured this natural-color image of Roze Glacier fringed by sea ice. The image is rotated and north is toward the upper right.
The glacier pushes slowly seaward between two rocky ridges. Uneven snow cover on the rock surfaces creates a patchwork of brown and white. Some snow also rests on the adjacent sea ice, which appears in shades of white and gray. In the east, a large patch of gray ice immediately offshore may owe its color to a layer of melt water or simply a lack of snow cover.
On the glacier itself, isolated pools of melt water form ovals and slivers of blue-gray. Dwarfing the melt ponds, two long parallel stripes extend southward toward the coast. The stripes look like debris along the sides of a relatively fast-flowing ice stream, which may have picked up rocks and dirt from an upslope rock outcrop.
Glaciers gain ice through snow accumulation, and lose it through melting and calving icebergs. A report released in 2006 by the Laboratoire d’Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales stated that Roze Glacier, in addition to other glaciers along Severny’s southeastern coast, underwent overall ice loss between 1990 and 2000.
Several hundred years ago, the Little Ice Age (PDF) prompted many glaciers to advance. Glaciers do not respond to changing climate immediately, but may advance or retreat years, decades, even centuries afterwards. A study published in 2009 reported that the glaciers on Novaya Zemlya likely reached their maximum extent related to the Little Ice Age near the end of the nineteenth century, and have since retreated at varying rates.
NASA Earth Observatory image created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using EO-1 ALI data provided courtesy of the NASA EO-1 team. Caption by Michon Scott based on image interpretation by Walt Meier, National Snow and Ice Data Center.