Recent detailed studies have revealed that the ice pack can take on many different forms, including some that are suitable for framing.
As ice expands and recedes seasonally, it creates impressive textures and patterns that can only truly be appreciated from aloft.
The image to the right was captured by NASA’s Operation IceBridge, which is a multi-year mission to collect high-resolution data from aircraft flying low above the Arctic and Antarctic.
It shows not only the different shapes, but also the various tones that are created when sea ice breaks up in summer.
Clearly visible are the thin, nearly transparent sheets of ice, compared to thicker slabs partially covered with snow.
Sometimes the layers overlap, creating even more elaborate patterns and shades.
Operation IceBridge uses a sophisticated array of sensors to collect data while being carried by NASA P-3B and DC-8 aircraft.
The instruments measure snow depth, ice elevation and thickness, surface temperatures, topography and other characteristics of sea ice, ice sheets and glaciers.
Other institutions use a variety of smaller aircraft to cooperate in the project.
Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center