When NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the region on January 20, 2012, the brief period of daylight at that high latitude still illuminated a vast sea of ice from north of the Alaska Peninsula to the Arctic Ocean.
The extent and thickness of sea ice off western Alaska fluctuates through the winter months, and also varies from year to year.
And while sea ice coverage in mid-January was not at a record high, it was at the highest extent in several years, according to the NOAA’s National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Nome, Alaska, was in danger of running out of much-needed winter fuel after a strong storm in November prevented the usual pre-winter fuel delivery.
Then, a thick layer of sea ice kept the supply tanker from reaching the Bering Sea outpost.
A Russian tanker finally succeeded in delivering an emergency shipment of fuel to Nome by January 16, 2012, but it was forced to remain about a mile offshore due to thick ice right along the coast at Nome.
The enlarged version of the image shows what appears to be a thin ribbon of open water running just off the coast to the east and west of Nome, but sea ice was prevalent over much of Norton Sound and right along the shore.
Image: NASA MODIS Rapid Response System