We live on planet of extremes. While Australians are burning up in extreme heat, there is a gigantic parade of sea ice flowing down the coast of Greenland. This Dec. 30, 2012, satellite image just out from NASA’s Earth Observatory shows ghostly tendrils of Arctic sea ice riding the East Greenland Current down Greenland’s east coast. The frigid current brings the ice to the southern tip of Greenland every year at about the start of winter. On land, a fresh blanket of snow makes it extra bright — more so than even the ice.

Below are two full resolution close-ups.

Another neat thing about the image is how it tells us where we are in terms of ice ages, i.e., that we are not in one now. Those deep fjords were cut by glaciers which have retreated inland during the current “interglacial” period — the same one in which civilization developed. Just how much further back the glaciers will retreat depends on how far anthropogenic climate change drives the warming planet.

Image courtesy of NASA