Large ice lead near Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska

March 28th, 2019 |

Landsat-8 False Color RGB image at 2222 UTC [click to enlarge]

Landsat-8 False Color RGB images on 21 March and 28 March [click to enlarge]

A toggle between 30-meter resolution Landsat-8 False Color Red-Green-Blue (RGB) images viewed using RealEarth (above) revealed a large ice lead that had opened up to the east of Utqiagvik (Barrow), Alaska on 28 March 2019. Snow and ice appear as darker shades of cyan in the RGB image, with open water exhibiting a dark blue to black appearance.

A sequence of True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 / Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS (below) showed the ice lead becoming wider with time during a 5-hour period (note: the time stamps on the images do not reflect the actual time each satellite passed over the Utqiagvik area). The MODIS image appeared the sharpest, since that instrument has a 250-meter resolution in the visible spectral bands (compared to 375 meters for VIIRS).

True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 and Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS [click to play animation]

True Color RGB images from NOAA-20 / Suomi NPP VIIRS and Terra MODIS [click to play animation]

In a 14-day series of Terra MODIS composites (below) it can be seen that the same general ice fracture line had opened and closed a few times during the 15-28 March period, depending on the influences of surface wind stress and sea currents. Days with strong and persistent southwesterly winds led to an opening of the ice lead (such as 20 March); however, the largest 1-day change — and the largest opening of the ice lead — occurred from 27-28 March (MODIS | VIIRS), when the strong southwest winds were bringing unseasonably warm air (over 30ºF above normal) across the area. The daily high temperature at Utqiagvik on 28 March was 30ºF, which set a new record high for the date (the normal high temperature for 28 March is -3ºF). Incidentally, this period of above-normal temperatures contributed to Utqiagvik having its warmest March on record.

Daily composites of Terra MODIS True Color RGB images, 15-28 March [click to play animation]

Daily composites of Terra MODIS True Color RGB images, 15-28 March [click to play animation | MP4]