The image to the right was captured by NASA’s Aqua satellite on the rare sunny afternoon of Sept. 6, 2013.
While there was a deck of clouds far to the north of the Beaufort Sea coast, the various blue hues of the ice-free waters were clearly visible to the satellite’s MODIS sensors.
Summertime melt and rains over the northern slope of the Brooks Range and the Alaskan tundra, carried northward by dozens of small rivers, have brought vast amounts of sediment into the coastal waters over the past three months.
This is evident by the lighter blue colors that swirl along the shore. Some of the freshest runoff appears earthen brown around the mouths of the rivers and in adjacent areas.
The massive oil facilities at Prudhoe Bay use this time of ice-free waters to restock heavy and bulky supplies by ship that are impractical to be carried by truck on the Dalton Highway, which runs parallel to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline from Fairbanks to Deadhorse.
Many residents of Barrow (seen in the enlarged version) undoubtedly enjoyed what was the last sunny and mild day of summer before the Arctic winter season began to descend on the northernmost community in the United States.
The maximum temperature there on Sept. 6 was 51 degrees Fahrenheit, which was 12 degrees above normal. Temperatures have since plunged to freezing and below.
Image: NASA MODIS Rapid Response System