NASA Begins Arctic Mission

This year’s Operation IceBridge continues the airborne surveys studying changes in polar ice, glaciers and sea ice, as a means of monitoring our global climate.


| March 25, 2010



An iceberg is seen out of the windown of NASA's research aircraft as it flies above the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica in 2009.

An iceberg is seen out of the windown of NASA's research aircraft as it flies above the Amundsen Sea in West Antarctica in 2009.

courtesy NASA/Jane Peterson

Washington, D.C. — Researchers and flight crew arrived in Thule, Greenland, in mid-March for the start of NASA's 2011 Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to study changes in Arctic polar ice. This year's plans include surveys of Canadian ice caps and expanded international collaboration.

The state of Earth's polar ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice is an important indicator of climate change and plays a key role in regulating global climate. With IceBridge, NASA is pushing ahead with its commitment to keep an eye on changes to polar ice to better understand the effects of climate change.

Since 2009, Operation IceBridge has flown annual campaigns over the Arctic starting in March and over Antarctica starting in October. The mission extends the multi-year record of ice elevation measurements made by NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and the upcoming ICESat-2, scheduled for launch in 2016.

"Each successive IceBridge campaign has broadened in scope," says IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger of Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "This year, we have more flight hours and flight plans than ever before. We are looking forward to a busy, fruitful campaign."

For almost 10 weeks, researchers will operate an array of airborne instruments collecting data over Arctic land and sea ice.

Among the highest priority flights is an overnight transit to Fairbanks, Alaska, to collect sea ice thickness data across a slice of the Arctic Ocean. Sea ice is thought to be thinning in recent years in addition to shrinking in the area covered. Another high-priority flight plan is to fly over the Barnes and Devon ice caps of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago.





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