Operation IceBridge turns five

Operation IceBridge turns five
Credit: IceBridge DMS L0 Raw Imagery courtesy of the Digital Mapping System (DMS) team/NASA DAAC at the National Snow and Ice Data Center

In May 2014, two new studies concluded that a section of the land-based West Antarctic ice sheet had reached a point of inevitable collapse. Meanwhile, fresh observations from September 2014 showed sea ice around Antarctica had reached its greatest extent since the late 1970s.

To better understand such dynamic and dramatic differences in the region's land and , researchers are travelling south to Antarctica this month for the sixth campaign of NASA's Operation IceBridge. The airborne campaign, which also flies each year over Greenland, makes annual surveys of the ice with instrumented research aircraft.

Instruments range from lasers that map the elevation of the ice surface, radars that "see" below it, and downward looking cameras to provide a natural-color perspective. The Digital Mapping System (DMS) camera acquired the above photo during the mission's first science flight on October 16, 2009. At the time of the image, the DC-8 aircraft was flying at an altitude of 515 meters (1,700 feet) over heavily compacted first-year sea ice along the edge of the Amundsen Sea.

Since that first flight, much has been gleaned from IceBridge data. For example, images from an IceBridge flight in October 2011 revealed a massive crack running about 29 kilometers (18 miles) across the floating tongue of Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier. The crack ultimately led to a 725-square-kilometer (280-square-mile) iceberg.

In 2012, IceBridge data was a key part of a new map of Antarctica called Bedmap2. By combining surface elevation, ice thickness, and bedrock topography, Bedmap2 gives a clearer picture of Antarctica from the ice surface down to the land surface. Discoveries have been made in Greenland, too, including the identification of a 740-kilometer-long (460-mile-long) mega canyon below the .

Repeated measurements of land and sea ice from aircraft extend the record of observations once made by NASA's Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which stopped functioning in 2009. In addition to extending the ICESat record, IceBridge also sets the stage for ICESat-2, which is scheduled for launch in 2017.


Explore further

NASA begins sixth year of airborne Antarctic ice change study

Provided by NASA
Citation: Operation IceBridge turns five (2014, October 17) retrieved 15 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2014-10-icebridge.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 17, 2014
The immense amount of ice does not remain "still" it is in motion continuously both from actions of the rotation of the earth and the wave actions of the great southern ocean. There is also a huge wind wall between the line of the South American and African southern tips that also adds to these motions. The FACT that ice breaks has nothing whatsoever to do with "global warming" since there are growing amounts of ice in that area.

The quotes noting that there haven't been growth of the glaciers of the Anarctic Continent means nothing more than lately there hasn't been a lot of snowfall - and that means that the weather patterns haven't been contributing to the snow pack. And the lack of pertinent weather means NOTHING AT ALL for at least one century.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more