Extremely high temperatures recorded this summer caused record melting across Svalbard – one of the fastest warming places on the planet. The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission captured this rare, cloud-free acquisition of the Norwegian archipelago in August 2022.
Located north of mainland Europe, Svalbard is around midway between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole. The archipelago, which spans around 62 700 sq km, is composed of nine main islands. The largest is Spitsbergen, visible here in the far-left, followed by Nordaustlandet in the top-right and Edgeøya in the bottom-right.
Spitsbergen, which is around the same size as Switzerland, has a mountainous terrain with most of the island covered with glaciers. Its highest point is Mount Newton, around 1717 m, in the northeast. The island is deeply indented by fjords. The longest fjord of the archipelago is Wijdefjorden and it is 108 km long. Opening on Spitsbergen’s north coast, it runs roughly southwards into the interior, separating Andrée Land in the west from Margaretas Land in the east.
Also on Spitsbergen lies the Svalbard Satellite Station – SvalSat for short – which can be seen in the image peeking through the clouds. The ground station, which is operated by Kongsberg Satellite Services (KSAT), has worked with a range of Earth observation missions including Aeolus, Swarm, CryoSat and all Copernicus Sentinel satellites.
The station is also important to the Galileo satellite navigation system – Europe’s global navigation satellite system. Its location makes it one of the most remote Galileo ground stations in the world.
This summer saw exceptionally warm air temperatures in Svalbard according to the Norwegian Meteorological Institute. An average of 7.4 °C was recorded in June, July and August compared to the 5.5°C average recorded during the 1991-2020 period. The heatwave caused exceptional levels of melting, which ultimately contributes to sea level rise.
The image, captured on 21 August, shows the colourful and large sediment discharges in the Arctic Ocean. This is likely due to sediments that eroded by the flow of ice and then carried by meltwater into the Arctic Ocean. There is also some phytoplankton present in the waters, as seen in the far right, which colours the water turquoise and green.
Data acquired by the Copernicus Sentinel satellites are used to detect changes in Earth’s surface in great detail and monitor the effects of climate change on remote environments such as the Arctic region.
This image is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.