The sea ice and snow is so thick throughout this region that it is difficult to discern where land gives way to sea, especially in the low resolution image.
Although sea ice forms on the Bering Sea each year, this has been an unusually severe winter. The National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) data indicate that the ice extent in the Bering Sea for most of the winter of 2011-2012 has been 15-25 percent above the 1979 to 2000 average. The past several months have included the second highest ice extent in the satellite record for the region. As of March 16, the National Weather Service noted that all of the ice cover in the Bering Sea was first year ice, much of it new and thin. Siberia lies in the northwest corner of this image, and Alaska can be seen in the northeastern corner. Bright white ice shelves extend out from the coastlines. In the higher resolution image, the snow cover on some of the land takes on a ribbed appearance, similar in texture to what might be found on dry, frozen tree leaf, while the edges of the continental ice shelves appear bright white and clean-edged. Between the two land masses, at the upper central edge of the image, the ice-covered Arctic Ocean appears smooth and bright white. To the south and centrally, the sea ice covering the Bering Sea is rippled and textured, and gives way to blue water at the far southern edge. At high resolution, the ice can be clearly seen to be broken into chunks. Near the bottom of the image, the textures of the sea ice blend into the patterns of cloud streets covering the Bering Sea. The extreme ice cover of the Bering Sea stands in stark contrast to the rest of the Arctic ice cap, where sea ice extent was below average in both January and February. Ice cover was down drastically on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Arctic, including the Kara, Barents, and Laptev Seas, where ice-free waters were 4 to 8 degrees Celsius (7 to 14 degrees Fahrenheit) above the norm.