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Fire and Ice

Smoking Hills, Northwest Territories

Credit: Arctic Eider Society. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel-2 data processed by ESA

The Smoking Hills line the coast of Franklin Bay along the northern shore of the Northwest Territories. The coastal slopes are prone to spontaneous combustion, and send plumes of smoke into the sky, due to oxidation of the materials in the slopes as they are mixed and exposed to air through landslides, resulting in dark clinker deposits along the coast. These landslides, as well as active layer detachments and retrogressive thaw slumps, expose buried glacial ice – a reminder of a time of permanent winter.

On the left, Horton River meanders northward through sediment left behind. On the right is sea ice: an important travel platform for Inuit, particularly for the nearby community of Paulatuk, named for the coal found in these hills. Knowing the conditions of the ice can help in route planning and keeping people safe. The sea ice colours shown here reflect the winter conditions in . Teal and green colours indicate smoother ice, easier to travel on, while orange and red colours indicate rougher ice. Maps of sea ice conditions and roughness are available to travellers on SIKU: The Indigenous Knowledge Social Network platform, developed by the Arctic Eider Society.

The colours of the ice are generated from an algorithm using Sentinel-1 radar backscatter levels to indicate ice roughness. Over land, we show Sentinel-2 optical imagery. The imagery in this satellite art product is from .

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