In the summer, lakes in isolated areas of northern Canada are filled mainly with wildlife. However, once winter’s frigid temperatures take hold, some of these same lakes turn into superhighways.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has provided a view of these highways from space with a Landsat satellite image taken on Feb. 24, 2015. In the Pictures above, you can see the southbound and northbound trucking lanes over the lake and an image from the warmer months when the ice was nonexistent.
According to NASA, the ice roads are used to provide supplies to small gold and diamond mining towns in the region, where delivery of certain supplies by air is very expensive or impossible because of size.
As the locator map above illustrates, this particular ice road originates in Yellowknife, Canada, and heads toward mining towns further north. NASA says that 87 percent of the 400-mile-long road is on ice, with some land crossings in between.
Average low temperatures in Yellowknife are in the teens and low 20s below zero December to February, according to Environment Canada. And temperatures can drop even more – to the 30s and 40s below zero – at times. Yellowknife has been as cold as minus 60 degrees in both January and February.
Once the frigid temperatures build up ice thick enough for snow plows, northbound and southbound trucking lanes are plowed to expose the ice and allow the cold air to help thicken it even more.
The length of time the roads are available for transportation varies, depending on temperatures each winter. However, by mid-April each year the road closes as the ice thins, NASA says.