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Operation Ice Bridge Media Resources
10.08.09
 
Operation Ice Bridge Logo Operation Ice Bridge
Fall 2009 Ice Bridge Campaign
Science Objectives
Science Team
Aircraft and Spacecraft
Instruments
NASA's Cryosphere Program
Media Contacts
Related Links
Did You Know?
Media Teleconference, 11:30 a.m. EDT on Thursday, Oct. 8

Operation Ice Bridge


Operation Ice Bridge, a six-year NASA field campaign, 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 sheets.

Ice Bridge continues the multi-year measurements of changes in ice sheets and sea ice started by NASA's ICESat satellite. Data collected will help scientists bridge the gap between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) -- in orbit since 2003 -- and ICESat-II, scheduled to launch no earlier than 2014. ICESat is nearing the end of its operational lifetime, making Ice Bridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations.

Ice Bridge will use airborne instruments to map Arctic and Antarctic areas once a year. The first Ice Bridge flights were conducted this spring from Greenland. Other smaller airborne surveys around the world are also part of the Ice Bridge campaign.


Fall 2009 Ice Bridge Campaign: Antarctica


In this fall's Ice Bridge campaign, NASA will fly over Antarctica with its long-range DC-8 aircraft, focusing on West Antarctica where glaciers and ice sheets have been undergoing rapid changes. Some areas around the Pine Island Glacier will be surveyed for the first time. Flights will also survey sea ice around the Antarctic Peninsula. Laser-ranging instruments will map the surface topography of the ice to see how much has been lost. Ground-penetrating radar will map the shape of the bedrock beneath the ice sheet, a critical factor in improving predictions of future ice loss and global sea-level rise.

Location: Punta Arenas, Chile
Aircraft: NASA's DC-8
Flight Window: Oct. 15 – Nov. 21
NASA Centers: NASA Headquarters Earth Science Division (lead)
Dryden Flight Research Center (DC-8)
Ames Research Center (operations)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and Wallops Flight Facility (instrument teams)
Science Partners: University of Washington (chief scientist)
Lamont-Doherty Geophysical Observatory at Columbia University (instrument team)
University of Kansas (instrument team)


Science Objectives


Ice Bridge is a program of airborne remote sensing measurements designed to fill the gap in measurements between the end of the ICESat-I mission and the launch of ICESat-II. Ice Bridge will make two major contributions to cryospheric science:
  1. Provide surface elevation data after the ICESat-I mission ends, focused on areas undergoing rapid change that are critical to characterizing select areas of sea ice and modeling the processes that determine the mass balance of the terrestrial ice sheets. Due to the time variable, non-linear changes that these areas undergo, repeated monitoring is required. Ice Bridge also allows more detailed studies over these areas, though over much smaller overall areas.
  2. Support complementary measurements critical to ice models such as bed topography, grounding line position, and ice and snow thickness. These parameters cannot be measured by satellite, but can be measured from aircraft. They are the other great unknowns in understanding the ice in general and developing predictive models of sea level rise in response to climate change.

Science Team


Tom Wagner
Cryosphere Program Scientist
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
thomas.wagner@nasa.gov

In April 2009, Tom Wagner described polar issues such as climate change, and the extent and thickness of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.
> Watch the Video

Seelye Martin
Project Scientist
School of Oceanography, University of Washington, Seattle
seelye@u.washington.edu

Thorsten Markus
Sea Ice PI
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
thorsten.markus@nasa.gov

Bill Krabill
Science Team PI, Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM)
NASA Wallops Flight Facility, Va.
william.b.krabill@nasa.gov

In March 2009, Bill Krabill and colleagues returned to Greenland as part of Operation Ice Bridge to collect updated ice measurements.
> Watch the video

Prasad Gogineni
Science Team PI, ice-penetrating radar and sea ice radar
University of Kansas
pgogineni@ku.edu
> Read more about Prasad Gogineni

Robin Bell
Science Team PI, gravimeter
Columbia University, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, N.Y.
robinb@ldeo.columbia.edu
> Read more about Robin Bell

Bryan Blair
Science Team PI, Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS)
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
james.b.blair@nasa.gov

Aircraft and Spacecraft


NASA DC-8 Airborne Laboratory
NASA's DC-8 is a modified jetliner that supports instruments used to collect data for field research. Some instruments on the DC-8 complement measurements made by satellites, providing a close up look at specific regions, while other instruments are intended only for aircraft. The DC-8 made Arctic flights in spring 2009 and flies to Antarctica during the fall campaign.
> DC-8 Fact Sheet

ICESat Satellite
The ICESat satellite is critical to meeting the goals of NASA's Cryposphere program by providing ice elevation information at continental scales with high spatial resolution.
> ICESat Fact Sheet

Instruments


The Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM)
The Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM), developed at NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., is an airborne laser that pulses laser light in circular scans on the ground. The pulses reflect back to the aircraft and are converted into elevation maps of the ice surface. By flying ATM over the same swath of ground covered by ICESat, researchers can compare the two data sets and calibrate them so that aircraft can continue the record keeping after the satellite data ends. They can also make more detailed elevation studies over dynamic areas, such as the Crane glacier on the Antarctic Peninsula, which sped up following the collapse of the Larsen Ice Shelf in 2002.
> More about ATM

Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder (MCoRDS)
University of Kansas scientists will fly MCoRDS, a radar used to measure ice sheet thickness. It can also map the varied terrain below the ice, which is important for computer modeling of the future behavior of the ice.

Snow Radar
University of Kansas scientists will fly a snow radar, which measures the thickness of snow on top of sea ice and glaciers, allowing researchers to differentiate between snow and ice and make more accurate thickness measurements.

Ku-Band Radar Altimeter
University of Kansas' third instrument, the Ku-Band Radar Altimeter, penetrates through snow to measure the surface elevation of sea ice and ice sheets. It can also measure sea surface elevation.

Gravimeter
The gravimeter, managed by Columbia University, will measure the shape of seawater-filled cavities at the edge of some major fast-moving major glaciers.
> More about the gravimeter

Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS)
Scientists at Goddard developed the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor, which can map from large areas of sea ice and glacier zones from a high altitude.
> More about LVIS

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

Media Contacts


Steve Cole
Headquarters, Washington, D.C.
202-358-0918
stephen.e.cole@nasa.gov

Kathryn Hansen
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.
301-352-4638
kathryn.h.hansen@nasa.gov

Keith Koehler
Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va.
757-824-1579
keith.a.koehler@nasa.gov

Beth Hagenauer
NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif.
661-276-7960
beth.hagenauer-1@nasa.gov

Jill Hummels
University of Kansas, Lawrence
785- 864-2934
jhummels@ku.edu

Kevin Krajick
Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York
212-854-9729
kkrajick@ei.columbia.edu

Sandra Hines
University of Washington, Seattle
206-543-2580
shines@u.washington.edu

Related Links


For Ice Bridge features, images, blog posts, tweets and other related links, visit the Operation Ice Bridge Web page at:
http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/icebridge/index.html

Did You Know?

  • Greenland and Antarctica together contain about 75 percent of the world's fresh water.
  • Pine Island Glacier alone contains enough fresh water to raise sea level by almost 1 meter, if all the glacier's ice were returned to the ocean.
  • Pine Island Glacier remains one of Antarctica's great unknowns because the glacier's bed, where the glacier contacts rock, is below sea level. Should seawater work its way underneath, the glacier could undergo rapid change.
  • Ice Bridge will also provide the first aircraft laser and radar measurements of sea ice thickness and snow depth on the sea ice in the Weddell and Amundsen seas.
  • NASA’s DC-8 is so large that it can’t be flown out of Antarctic runways.
  • Operation Ice Bridge is the first sustained effort of its kind over Antarctica.
  • There have been many Antarctic research flights by the scientific community in the past, but most of them have been in smaller planes based in Antarctica.
  • Compared to previous Antarctic research flights by the scientific community, this campaign stands out because of the broad range of instrumentation carried by the aircraft.
  • A particularly challenging feature of the flights for this campaign is that they will be very long, about 11 hours each – 4 hours each way over the Southern Ocean and about 3 hours over Antarctica.
  • The primary instrument on these flights, the NASA Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM), was flown from Punta Arenas over the Antarctic in 2002, 2004, and 2008 aboard a Chilean Navy P3 aircraft.

Media Teleconference


NASA Media Briefing to Preview Major Antarctic Research Campaign

To participate in the teleconference, reporters must contact Sonja Alexander at sonja.r.alexander@nasa.gov for dial-in instructions.

> Media Advisory

Supporting Material


Image 1
Tentative flight paths from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Antarctica include sea ice targets (red) and land ice targets (green). Actual paths flown during Ice Bridge will depend on real-time circumstances such as weather.  Credit: NASATentative flight paths from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Antarctica include sea ice targets (red) and land ice targets (green). Actual paths flown during Ice Bridge will depend on real-time circumstances such as weather.
Credit: NASA
Larger Image


Image 2
Glaciers and ice shelves along the coast of west Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula that are susceptible to rapid changes are key targets during Operation Ice Bridge. Credit: NASAGlaciers and ice shelves along the coast of west Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula that are susceptible to rapid changes are key targets during Operation Ice Bridge.
Credit: NASA
Larger Image


Image 3
graphic showing the Antarctica continent and its associated sea ice.Floating sea ice encompasses Antarctica's land mass. Ice concentration is a measure of the real coverage of sea ice, which becomes less concentrated at greater distances from shore. Scientists want to know where this sea ice is thinning and thickening to better understand its role in the Earth system.
Credit: NASA
Larger Image


Image 4
Different instruments onboard NASA's DC-8 will map surface elevations of the ice sheet, the location of the underlying bedrock, and the thickness of floating sea ice and the snow that sits on top of it. Credit: NASADifferent instruments onboard NASA's DC-8 will map surface elevations of the ice sheet, the location of the underlying bedrock, and the thickness of floating sea ice and the snow that sits on top of it.
Credit: NASA
Larger Image


Images 5 and 6
The gravity instrument on NASA's DC-8 aircraft can detect hidden water beneath the ice sheets. The radar's emitted signal (red) penetrates through the ice sheet, resolving ice thickness, but is unable to penetrate through water and the signal is reflected back (blue) to the aircraft. The gravity measurements are very sensitive to whether there is rock beneath the ice. Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory The gravity instrument on NASA's DC-8 aircraft can detect hidden water beneath the ice sheets. The radar's emitted signal (red) penetrates through the ice sheet, resolving ice thickness, but is unable to penetrate through water and the signal is reflected back (blue) to the aircraft. The gravity measurements are very sensitive to whether there is water beneath the ice. Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
The gravity instrument on NASA's DC-8 aircraft can detect hidden water beneath the ice sheets. The radar's emitted signal (red) penetrates through the ice sheet, resolving ice thickness, but is unable to penetrate through water and the signal is reflected back (blue) to the aircraft. The gravity measurements are very sensitive to whether there is rock beneath the ice (left) or water (right).
Credit: Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Click on Images for Larger