At the bottom of the mosaic, the Larsen C Ice Shelf is a uniform, cold (light blue) expanse. Under clear-sky conditions, flat snow and ice surfaces radiate heat to space, creating a thin, chilled layer of air that pools at the surface and contributes to its cold appearance. In places with more topography, even a calm wind will disrupt this layer and cause surface features to give off a warmer signal. In this way, thermal imagery can map topography in relatively fine detail.

Scenes from the Polar Night

Landsat satellites have begun regularly acquiring images of ice at the poles during the winter, with enlightening results. View the full story

Credits: NASA Earth Observatory / Lauren Dauphin