Ice in the Ross Sea
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Ice in the Ross Sea

December 18, 2007

The MODIS on the Terra satellite caught this view of ice in the Ross Sea in Antarctica, on the morning of December 12, 2007. December means summer in the Southern hemisphere, and thus seasonal sea ice can dramatically retreat from Antarctic coastal waters. This is useful for supply ships bound for McMurdo Station, located on Ross Island in Antarctica. Ross Island is visible towards the bottom of the image - it's only distinguishable from the ice that surrounds it by the rugged texture and brown-color of the mountains that make up the island.

The Ross Ice Shelf is a massive field of snow and ice that begins on land, but hangs out over the sea. Ross Island reaches a maximum elevation of 3,794 meters (12,448 feet) on Mount Erebus, an active volcano. The fact that parts of the island appear to just barely rise above the ice shelf provides dramatic evidence of just how thick the ice sheet is — 3,000 feet in some places. The shelf, the larget in the world, undergoes perpetual demolition and reconstruction, as the outer portions of the shelf break off, occasionally giving rise to enormous icebergs, while the interior regions are fed by glaciers flowing down onto the shelf from the mainland.

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