Marie Byrd LandIceBridge project scientist Michel Studinger of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center captured this image of glaciers and rock outcrops in Marie Byrd Land, West Antarctica during a Fall 2011 IceBridge flight on Oct. 17, 2011 by NASA's’ DC-8 airborne science laboratory. (NASA / Michael Studinger)
NASA's Operation IceBridge Surveys New Target Area
NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory surveyed a new target area Oct. 20 during its sixth science flight in the Fall 2011 Operation IceBridge campaign, the Recovery Glacier region of Antarctica.
Mission managers reported that the Recovery Glacier area is considered a difficult target due to uncertain weather forecasting reliability, and Thursday's flight was the first time it has been attempted during the three years of IceBridge survey flights. However, good data were collected along all of the planned routes, with no losses due to cloud cover and only minor losses due to blowing snow during the 3.5 hours the aircraft were over the target area.
A second flight over the same area to collect data about the thickness of land and sea ice and glacial movement was scheduled for Friday, Oct. 21.
Including pre-mission instrument checkout flights and the transit flight from its base in Palmdale, Calif., to its deployment base at Punta Arenas, Chile, NASA's DC-8 airborne science laboratory had flown about 90 of the 250 flight hours allocated for the six-week campaign as of Friday morning. Most of the flights have lasted about 11 hours, with three to four hours of on-site data collection and the remainder being transit time to and from Punta Arenas.
Previous flights over the past 10 days in the current series have seen the converted jetliner fly repeat patterns over the Getz Glacier, the Pine Island Glacier and over the Weddell Sea that had previously been flown during the Fall 2009 and 2010 IceBridge missions. At least two of the flights were coordinated with overflights of the CloudSat and the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellites, which also collect data on thickness and movement of the Antarctic ice fields that cover about 98 percent of the continent.
By comparing the year-to-year readings of ice thickness and movement both on land and on the sea, scientists can learn more about the trends that could affect sea-level rise and climate around the globe.
Operation IceBridge was begun in 2009 to bridge the gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat-1 satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016.
In addition to NASA's DC-8 flying laboratory and its complement of specialized science instruments and scientists, a Gulfstream V (G-V) operated by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research is participating in the Fall 2011 IceBridge mission. The G-V carries one instrument, a laser-ranging topography mapper, while the DC-8 carries seven instruments, including a laser altimeter and radars that can distinguish how much snow sits on top of sea ice and map the terrain of bedrock below thick ice cover.
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