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Russia’s northernmost territory, Franz Josef Land, is an archipelago of 191 islands in the northeastern Barents Sea. On 17 August 2011, clear skies allowed NASA’s Terra satellite this unobstructed view. Clouds fringe this natural-color scene, like curtains held back from a window. Around the islands, sea ice forms serpentine shapes of light gray and dull white. The glaciers that cap many of the islands are bright white. In ice-free areas, land cover is pale brown, typical of tundra.
Situated about 1,000 km (625 mi) from the North Pole, Franz Josef Land has a punishing climate. The average summertime temperature is just 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees Fahrenheit), and the average wintertime temperature is -22 degrees Celsius (-8 degrees Fahrenheit). Vegetation includes lichens, mosses, and Arctic flowering plants.
Image courtesy of NASA/Jeff Schmaltz.