In Arctic Siberia, near the Markha River, the earth ripples in ways that scientists does not fully understand and can't affirm why these hills in the Russian Arctic ripple with stripes.
NASA researchers posted earlier this week, a set of satellite images of the strange wrinkled landscape to the Earth Observatory website of the agency.
Conflicting Explanations Given to NASA
The photos, taken with the Landsat 8 satellite display the land on both sides of the Markha River waving with flipping dark and light stripes. The puzzling effect is apparent in all four seasons, but it is obvious in winter when white snow makes a conflicting pattern even harsher.
But why is this particular section of Siberia marked by stripes? Scientists are not really sure, and several experts offered conflicting explanations to NASA.
A single feasible explanation is written in the glassy ground. This region of the Central Siberian Plateau according to NASA uses about 90% of the year covered in permafrost, although it sometimes melts for short intervals.
The Patterned Ground
Scientists reported in the journal Science published in January 2003 that patches of land that constantly freeze, melt and freeze again have been known to take on circular or stripy designs called patterned ground. The consequence takes place when soils and stones sort themselves naturally during the freeze-melt cycle.
Even so, other examples of patterned ground such as the stone circles of Svalbard in Norway are usually much smaller in scale than the stripy ones in Siberia.
Erosion is another possible explanation. A geologist with the United States Geological Survey, Thomas Crafford, told NASA that the stripes look like a layer cake geology, a pattern in sedimentary rocks.
Sedimentary Rock Pieces
Crafford said these patterns occur when snowmelt or rain flows downhill, scrapping and flushing sedimentary rock pieces into piles. The process can show pieces of sediment that look like slices of a layer cake with the darker stripes symbolizing steeper areas and the lighter stripes representing flatter areas.
According to the image depicted, this kind of sedimentary layering would stand out more in winter weather, when white snow lays on the flatter areas, to make them appear even lighter.
Crafford added that the pattern dims as it advances towards the river, where sediment assembles into more uniform pieces along the banks after millions of years of erosion.
This explanation according to NASA seems to fit well, but it remains one of those quintessentially Siberian curiosities until the region can be studied up close.
Self-organization of Patterned Ground
Striking circular, polygonal, and stripy patterns of stones self-organize in many polar environments. These forms arise because freeze-melt cycles cause an interrelation between two feedback mechanisms.
One of which is the formation of ice lenses in freezing soil sorts stones and soil by removing soil toward soil-rich domains and stones toward its domains. Secondly, stones are transferred along the axis of stone domains, which are tightened and confined as there is an expansion in freezing soil domains.
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