Tech

October 15, 2012

NASA’s Operation IceBridge resumes flights over Antarctica

NASA’s DC-8 over the Pacific during transit to Chile.

Scientists and flight crew members with Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne mission to study Earth’s changing polar ice, are beginning anothercampaign over Antarctica. Now in its fourth year, IceBridge’s return to theAntarctic comes almost a year after the discovery of a large rift in the continent’s Pine Island Glacier.

Flightplan map of today’s Thwaites Glacier mission.

The first science flight of the campaign began Oct. 12 at 5 a.m. PDT when NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft left Punta Arenas, Chile, for an 11-hourflight that will take it over the Thwaites Glacier in west Antarctica. Thisyear, IceBridge will survey previously unmeasured areas of land and sea ice and gather further data on rapidly changing areas like Pine Island Glacier. TheIceBridge Antarctic campaign will operate out of Punta Arenas through mid-November.

Several of IceBridge’s planned flights focus on previously unmeasured ice streams feeding into the Weddell Sea. These flights will gather data on what lies beneath these ice streams, something vital for understanding how changing conditions might affect the flow of ice into the ocean and sea-level rise.

“We have added surveys of ice streams flowing into the Ronne and Filchner ice shelves,” said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “This is something we haven’t done before.”

The large crack in Pine Island Glacier’s floating ice shelf has been the focus of worldwide attention as it has grown. The ice shelf now threatens to calve, or break off, a large iceberg into Pine Island Bay in the Amundsen Sea. Researchers have been using imagery from NASA’s Aqua and Terra spacecraft and synthetic aperture radar data from the German Aerospace Center’s TerraSAR-Xsatellite to monitor the rift since its discovery last year.

IceBridge also will gather data on sea ice in the Weddell and Bellingshausen seas. Because of geographical differences, Antarctic sea ice behaves differently from ice in the Arctic and presents unique challenges.

“Sea ice in the Antarctic is a very different physical system,” Goddard sea ice researcher Nathan Kurtz at said.

Ocean currents, precipitation patterns and the shape of land masses are just a few of the differences. Instead of compacting ice against land like in the Arctic basin, currents in the Southern Ocean push much of it farther out to sea. Also, the Antarctic averages more snowfall, which weighs sea ice down and allows ocean water into the bottom layer of the snow on top of the sea ice. The Antarctic has more frequent strong wind events and large temperature swingsthan the Arctic, which causes layers of ice to form in snow cover. Both of these factors make getting accurate readings of snow on top of sea ice challenging.

Arctic sea ice extent and volume reached record lows this year, but Antarctic sea ice volume has been holding steady and the extent has been increasing. Predictive models have a hard time pinpointing what Antarctic sea ice might do under a warming global climate. Having more data to work with could make these models more useful. Further observations will give researchers more data on how Antarctic sea ice changes over time.

“This is why having observations is really important,” Kurtz said. “We want to make sure these models are getting the physics right.

IceBridge will gather information on many different aspects of land and sea ice using a variety of scientific sensors onboard the DC-8. These instruments include a laser altimeter to measure surface elevation changes, various radar instruments for determining snow depth and ice thickness, a gravimeter that will gather data on the size and shape of water cavities under ice shelves, and a digital camera instrument that takes high-resolution images useful for building maps and digital elevation models of the ice.

By flying previously surveyed tracks in rapidly changing areas like Pine Island Glacier, IceBridge is building on a legacy of measurements started by NASA’s ICESat satellite that will continue with the launch of ICESat-2 in 2016.

“This area is changing so rapidly we need to survey every year,” Studinger said.

In addition, IceBridge will fly along tracks for the European Space Agency’s ice-monitoring satellite, CryoSat-2.

This year’s campaign also will see visits to IceBridge by school teachers. Two English-speaking Chilean science teachers will meet with IceBridge scientists and instrument operators this month and ride on a survey flight to learn more about polar science research with the goal of using their new knowledge to better engage and teach students.

The IceBridge project science office is based at Goddard. The DC-8 is based at NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

Headlines July 21, 2014

News: IDF releases Iron Dome interception rate - Israel’s Iron Dome system has successfully intercepted 86 percent of the Palestinian rockets that it has engaged during Operation ‘Protective Edge’, according to the Israel Defense Forces.   Business: The turnaround of France’s defense giant Thales - Within seconds of meeting Jean-Bernard Levy it becomes apparent that h...
 
 

News Briefs July 21, 2014

Corruption investigated in Kansas National Guard The Kansas Adjutant General’s office says federal authorities are investigating possible corruption involving outside medical companies’ contracts with the Kansas Army National Guard. Sharon Watson, spokeswoman for the adjutant general’s office, confirmed the investigation Friday to The Lawrence Journal-World but declined to rel...
 
 
Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend

B61 undergoes testing in AEDC wind tunnel

Air Force photograph by Rick Goodfriend Arnold Engineering Development Complex engineers recently joined researchers with Sandia National Laboratories to perform a wind tunnel test on a full-scale mock-up B61. Pictured with the...
 

 
Army photograph by Charles Kennedy

New CT scanner finds diverse, important uses for researchers

Army photograph by Charles Kennedy Turning a now-standard tool for medical diagnostics and therapeutics to a host of new applications, the U. S. Army Research Laboratory’s Survivability/Lethality Analysis Directorate rece...
 
 

Ingalls Shipbuilding awarded $23.5 million LHA 8 affordability contract

Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division has been awarded an affordability design contract for $23.5 million for early industry involvement to reduce the construction and life-cycle cost for the amphibious assault ship LHA 8. “Ingalls Shipbuilding has been constructing large-deck amphibious ships for nearly 50 years, and this contract will build on our company...
 
 
Marine Corps photograph

DOD identifies missing World War II Marine

Marine Corps photograph Marines wounded during the landing on Tarawa in November 1943 are towed out on rubber boats to larger vessels that will take them to base hospitals. The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>