NASA Operation IceBridge 2013 Getting Ready For New Season
March 21, 2013

Operation IceBridge 2013 Getting Ready For New Season

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

NASA has kickstarted another season of science flights over Greenland to perform research activity with Arctic ice sheets and sea ice.

Operation IceBridge scientists will be flying a specially equipped P-3B research aircraft from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to carry out land and sea ice surveys in and around Greenland and the Arctic Ocean through early May.

NASA started the Operation IceBridge campaign in 2009 as a way to continue the record of polar ice measurements after the space agency's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) stopped gathering data. The IceBridge team is maintaining a continuous record of change until NASA launches the ICESat-2 in 2016.

This year, IceBridge scientists will continue to closely monitor Arctic sea ice and key areas of the Greenland ice sheet. The team said their long term plan is to scale back the land ice portion of the campaign while maintaining the same coverage of sea ice as in previous campaigns.

"We're starting to see how the whole ice sheet is changing," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "Thinning at the margins is now propagating to the interior."

The mission will survey areas of Arctic sea ice near Greenland with flights out of the US airbase in Thule. Scientists will also be carrying out a series of flights from Fairbanks to measure ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska.

IceBridge scientists will be collaborating with other groups doing research in the area, as well. Other groups include the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Engineering Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington. The teams will work together to collect snow depth measurements on Elson Lagoon near Barrow, Alaska.

Three teachers will be joining the IceBridge team to work with the research and learn about polar science. IceBridge will be providing the teachers with a research experience they will be able to take back to their schools to teach their students.

IceBridge will also be surveying the Greenland Ice Sheet in the interior of the country and in rapidly changing areas along the coast, like Jakobschavn Glacier.

Data from these surveys has been used to help improve the accuracy of seasonal sea ice forecast in the Arctic. Near real-time ice thickness data obtained through IceBridge has been used to correct a forecast model's initial measurements.

“We gained some valuable insights into our capabilities,” said Airborne Topographic Mapper senior scientist John Sonntag. “This new confidence in the quick data may open new avenues for us in the future.”

NASA released a three-minute video back in February of all the science performed during a 12-hour IceBridge mission. The video chronicles a flight to Antarctica's remote Getz Ice Shelf as the team flew over giant icebergs and scanned new cracks in the ice.