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Chillingly Beautiful Melt Ponds

Churchill, Manitoba

Credit: Ducks Unlimited Canada. RADARSAT Constellation Mission imagery © Government of Canada (). RADARSAT is an official mark of the Canadian Space Agency

This stunning satellite image was collected on , 50 km east of Churchill, Manitoba, a northern community situated at the estuary of the Churchill River in Hudson Bay. This area is known for polar bears in the fall and beluga whales in the summer, and supports long-distance migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. During the long and harsh winter months, Hudson Bay is almost totally covered in thick sea ice. However, come spring, the ice slowly begins to melt, creating a patchwork of ice floes and melt ponds. Perfect conditions for satellite art.

The image portrayed here was collected by the Canadian Space Agency's RADARSAT Constellation Mission and traverses the shoreline of Hudson Bay. The raw image was enhanced by Ducks Unlimited Canada's analyst Michael Merchant, creating a stunning 25 km by 15 km composite highlighting the changing winter conditions in the bay. To the left is the intertidal zone, and to the right are late-winter ice floes in bright green. A large sea ice melt pond can be seen as black, while areas with purple hues are soon to form ponds. Meltwater ponds are particularly important resting habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Michael Merchant is the lead remote sensing analyst for Ducks Unlimited Canada's National Boreal Program. Michael has been with DUC for over six years utilizing various Earth observation satellite data to map and monitor boreal environments. Michael holds an M.Sc. in geography and is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Guelph. For his Ph.D., Michael is developing techniques that characterize wetland inundation frequency in Canada's polar region using satellite radar data and machine learning.

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