Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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January 8, 2014
Observing the Arctic Thaw

The images above show snow day anomalies in April, May and June; that is, they depict the percentage of days that snow cover was above or below the long-term average (1981-2010). Fewer snow days are represented in brown, while more snow days are shown in blue.

In several months the Arctic will begin to thaw. Perhaps nowhere on Earth is the transformation between seasons so extreme as in the Arctic, especially in the spring.

Land that was frozen and snow-covered emerges to become tundra brush or grasslands or snow-free forest. The timing of this change is critical to Earth’s overall health, as snow and ice reflect solar energy back into space, effectively air conditioning the planet.

This climate cooling is greatest in the spring (March to June), when sunlight returns to the Arctic and the snow and ice have only just started melting. For this reason, any changes in spring snow and ice cover have a greater impact on Earth’s climate than changes at other times of the year.

Image courtesy of NASA.

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