Severnaya Zemlya

Severnaya Zemlya (Северная Земля), — translated as "North Land" — are a group of islands located off the Taymyr Peninsula on the central Arctic coast of Siberia. They are separated from the mainland by the often ice-bound Vilkitskogo Strait and are bordered by the Kara Sea on the west and by the Laptev Sea on the east.

The group has a total area of some 38,800 km² and consists of four main islands: October Revolution Island (14,204 km²), Bolshevik Island (11,206 km²), Komsomolets Island (8,812 km²), and Pioneer Island (1,527 km²). There are also a large number of smaller islands, including: Schmidt (467 km²), Mal Taymyr (232 km²) and Starokadomsky. The islands are low-lying to hilly, rising to a height of 965 m on the Karpinski ice cap of October Revolution Island. Lowland areas consist of arctic desert, barren tundra and coastal plains vegetated with mosses and lichens.

Around 18,300 km² of Severnaya Zemlya is permanently covered in ice. Komsomolets Island (top left) contains the largest ice cap of the Russian Arctic — the Academy of Sciences Ice Cap — which covers 5,575 km² of the island in a 819 m thick ice dome that reaches 749 m above sea level. October Revolution Island contians several domed ice caps: Rusanov, Karpinsky, University, Vavilov and Albanov. Pioneer Island contains the Pioneer Glacier, and Bolshevik Island carries the large Leningrad and Semenov-Tyan Shansky glaciers and the smaller Kropotkin glacier. In all, the ice bodies of Severnaya Zemlya form 17 glacier systems comprising ice domes, ice shelves and glaciers.

Climatic conditions on the islands are severe, with an mean annual temperature of -16 °C.

image: MODIS rapid response project at nasa/goddard space flight center