NASA starts spring surveillance of Arctic ice
"We're starting to see how the whole ice sheet is changing"
NASA’s Operation IceBridge scientists have begun another season of research activity over Arctic ice sheets and sea ice with the first of a series of flights from Greenland completed March 20.
A specially equipped P-3B research aircraft is operating out of airfields in Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and Fairbanks, Alaska.
The planes will carry out survey flights over land and sea ice in and around Greenland and the Arctic Ocean through early May.
NASA began Operation IceBridge in 2009 as a way to continue the record of polar ice measurements made by NASA’s “ice, cloud and land elevation” satellite after the satellite stopped gathering data.
By flying over the Arctic and Antarctic each year, IceBridge will provide a continuous record of change until the launch of ICESat-2 in 2016.
This year’s IceBridge will continue closely monitoring Arctic sea ice and key areas of the Greenland ice sheet, while expanding coverage in Antarctica, NASA said in a news release.
“Our long term plan, beginning with the Arctic 2013 campaign, is to scale back the land ice portion of the campaign while maintaining the same coverage of sea ice as in previous campaigns,” said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist.
The mission will survey areas of Arctic sea ice near Greenland with flights out of the U.S. airbase in Thule.
IceBridge also will carry out a series of flights from Fairbanks to measure ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska.
In addition to sea ice, IceBridge will survey the Greenland ice sheet.
“We’re starting to see how the whole ice sheet is changing,” Studinger said. “Thinning at the margins is now propagating to the interior.”
Joining the IceBridge team are three teachers who will spend time working with the researchers to learn about polar science. High school science teachers from Libertyville, Illinois, Aalborg, Denmark, and Sisimiut, Greenland, will spend time aboard the P-3B during IceBridge survey flights.