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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.

Clouds and Ice off Russian Coast, Arctic Ocean

March 27th, 2009 Category: Snapshots

Russia - March 12th, 2009

Russia - March 12th, 2009

Close-up

Close-up

Clouds make linear patterns (see close-up) over the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean, off the coast of Russia.

The land visible at the bottom left is part of the Kola Peninsula in the Murmansk Oblast. The Russian mainland lies to the right, with the Kanin Peninsula jutting out just east of the Kola Peninsula.

The other landmasses visible are islands, seemingly connected to the continent by ice. Kolguyev Island is located in the south-eastern Barents Sea, to the north-east of the Kanin Peninsula.

The white, hooked strip of land coming down from the top center is actually two islands: Severny and Yuzhny, in the the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.

Yuzhny, the southern island, is separated from Vaygach Island by the Kara Strait. This 56 km strait connects the Kara Sea and the Barents Sea.

In turn, Vaygach Island is separated from mainland Russia’s Yugorsky Peninsula by the Yugorsky Strait.

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.

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