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IceBridge Mission Overview

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IceBridge Mission Overview

Operation IceBridge Logo IceBridge - Flying over the poles to monitor critical areas of Earth's ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice

IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. It will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. These flights will provide a yearly, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland and Antarctic ice.

Data collected during IceBridge will help scientists bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) -- in orbit since 2003 -- and ICESat-2, planned for early 2016. ICESat stopped collecting science data in 2009, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations.

IceBridge will use airborne instruments to map Arctic and Antarctic areas once a year. IceBridge flights are conducted in March-May over Greenland and in October-November over Antarctica. Other smaller airborne surveys around the world are also part of the IceBridge campaign.

 

IceBridge Mission Statement

NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth's polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system. IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. In addition, IceBridge collects critical data used to predict the response of earth’s polar ice to climate change and resulting sea-level rise. IceBridge also helps bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA's ICESat satellite missions.

 

NASA's Cryosphere Program

Remote sensing plays a key role in characterizing the world's major ice sheets due to their size and the scale of change that they undergo. The NASA Cryosphere program has a range of goals, but at present its two highest priorities are understanding:
 

  1. Terrestrial ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica with an emphasis on acquiring data to characterize them and develop predictive models of their behavior and contributions to sea level change.
     
  2. Arctic sea ice, and to a lesser extent the Antarctic sea ice, with an emphasis on determining its status and the controls on its extent and thickness.

 

Related Multimedia

This animation portrays fluctuations in the cryosphere through observations collected from a variety of satellite-based sensors, beginning in Antarctica and showing some unique features of the Antarctic landscape found nowhere else on earth. A Tour of the Cryosphere 2009
Animation showing the impact of recent cryospheric changes on our planet.


This animated graph shows actual measurements of total sea ice area in the north, showing a dramatic decrease in the past 30 years. Shrinking Sea Ice Highlights Changing Climate
Ice shows deep, persistent, global changes more readily than other kinds of geographic features. This video shows actual measurements of total sea ice area in the north, showing a dramatic decrease in the past 30 years.


Screen capture from LIMA video. Guided Tour of LIMA Flyover
Take a guided tour of Antarctica using the Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica (LIMA) images.


Screen grab of a dark earth with the word "Frozen" superimposed upon it against a black background. FROZEN: A Spherical Movie About the Cryosphere
FROZEN features the global cryosphere, those places on Earth where the temperature doesn't generally rise above water's freezing point.

 

Page Last Updated: August 14th, 2014
Page Editor: Holly Zell