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Phytoplankton Off Coast of Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, Russia – September 23rd, 2012

71.7N 46.6E

September 23rd, 2012 Category: Image of the day, Phytoplankton

Russia – September 3rd, 2012

A phytoplankton bloom was still flourishing in the Barents Sea in early September (click here for previous images). Here, the green and blue, paisley patterns of the bloom can be seen off the coast of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago (upper right). The bright blue color may be indicative of a coccolithophore bloom.

Phytoplankton Bloom and Novaya Zemlya Glaciers

74.6N 55.0E

September 11th, 2012 Category: Phytoplankton

Russia – August 29th, 2012

A phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea turns the Arctic waters brilliant shades of blue. Here, the bloom can be seen spreading towards the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, belonging to Russia  (click here for previous images). The northern island is glacier covered and is the site of ongoing research into the effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation and climate change on the glaciers.

Phytoplankton Bloom by Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, Russia

74.7N 57.6E

September 9th, 2012 Category: Phytoplankton

Russia – August 29th, 2012

A phytoplankton bloom in the Barents Sea, part of the Arctic Ocean, creates vivid blue and green patterns off the coast of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago (right), which lies north of the western Russian mainland.  Click here for previous images of this bloom flourishing over the last month.

Former Novaya Zemlya Nuclear Test Site, Russia – May 17th, 2009

73.6N 56.0E

May 17th, 2009 Category: Image of the day

Russia - May 13th, 2009

Russia - May 13th, 2009

Russia’s Novaya Zemlya  archipelago lies in the Arctic Ocean in the north of Russia and the extreme northeast of Europe at Cape Zhelaniya. Due to its geographical location, it has a very severe climate.

It consists of two major islands, separated by the narrow Matochkin Strait, and a number of smaller ones. The two main islands are Severny (northern) and Yuzhny (southern). Novaya Zemlya separates the Barents Sea from the Kara Sea. The archipelago’s total area is about 90,650 km².

As Novaya Zemlya was a sensitive military area during the Cold War years, the Soviet Air Force maintained a presence at Rogachevo air base on the southern part of the island. It was used primarily for interceptor aircraft operations but also provided logistical support for the nearby nuclear test area.

In July 1954, the archipelago was designated the Novaya Zemlya Test Site, which existed during much of the Cold War. Tests occurred throughout the islands, with an official testing range covering over half of the landmass.

Over its entire history as a nuclear test site, Novaya Zemlya hosted 224 nuclear detonations with a total explosive energy equivalent to 265 megatons of TNT. For comparison, all explosives used in World War II, including the detonations of two U.S. nuclear bombs, amounted to only two megatons.

In 1961 the northern island was the explosion site of Tsar Bomba, a record 50-megaton blast conducted in the atmosphere. In 1963, the Limited Test Ban Treaty outlawing most atmospheric nuclear tests was implemented.

However, underground testing continued, with the largest underground test at Novaya Zemlya taking place on September 12, 1973. This test involved four nuclear devices of 4.2 megatons total yield. Although far smaller in blast power than the Tsar Bomba and other atmospheric tests, the confinement of the blasts underground led to pressures rivaling natural earthquakes. In the case of the September 12, 1973, test, a seismic magnitude of 6.97 on the Richter Scale was reached, setting off an 80 million ton avalanche that blocked two glacial streams and created a lake 2 km in length.

In 1988–1989, glasnost helped make the Novaya Zemlya testing activities public knowledge, and in 1990 Greenpeace activists staged a protest at the site. The last nuclear test explosion was in 1990 (also the last for the entire Soviet Union and Russia).

However, the Ministry for Atomic Energy has performed a series of subcritical underwater nuclear experiments near Matochkin Shar each autumn since 1998. These tests reportedly involve up to 100 g of weapons-grade plutonium.

Russia’s Novaya Zemlya Archipelago in the Arctic Ocean

March 13th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Russia - March 12th, 2009

Russia - March 12th, 2009

The bright white strip running through the center of this image is actually the snow-covered islands of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, just north of Russia.

The main island visible is Yuzhny, the southern island. It has an area of 33,275 km², which while smaller than the northern island of Severny, makes it one of the largest islands in the world. The island’s vegetation is largely composed of tundra.

Yuzhny is separated from Vaygach Island, whose tip is visible at the far right, by the Kara Strait, a 56 km wide channel of water. This strait connects the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea in northern Russia.

Vaygach Island  has an area of 3,383 km² and is about 100 km long and up to 45 km wide. Its average temperatures are −20°С in February and +5°С in June and it mostly consists of tundra. The island is separated from mainland Russia’s Yugorsky Peninsula by the Yugorsky Strait.