Every summer, piles of snow on top of ice sheets in the Arctic begin to melt, creating brilliant aqua-colored pools that dot the otherwise snow-white landscape. A NASA aircraft recently flew over the region, capturing eye-catching images of these glittering pools.
The Arctic pools are called "melt ponds," and NASA's ER-2 aircraft captured an image of one of these ponds atop a glacier in southeast Alaska on July 16. ER-2 was flying at an altitude of about 64,000 feet (20,000 meters) when it snapped the photo, according to NASA officials.
It's estimated that the Arctic is losing about 30,000 square miles (78,000 square kilometers) of sea ice every year, and scientists are hoping to learn more about how melt ponds may be influencing the melting of Arctic ice sheets. [10 Things You Need to Know About Arctic Sea Ice]
Water absorbs more heat from the sun than ice and snow, so when pools of water that form on top of the ice sheets start heating up, it can accelerate the melting of the surrounding ice. Scientists think the number and size of melt ponds in the Arctic could indicate how much ice coverage will remain at the end of summer.