IceBridge Arctic 2014
IceBridge Concludes Arctic Field Campaign
A view of mountains and sea ice near Thule Air Base, Greenland, from the NASA P-3 on May 6, 2014.
Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
Researchers with NASA's Operation IceBridge have completed another successful Arctic field campaign. On May 23, NASA's P-3 research aircraft left Thule Air Base, Greenland, and returned to Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia marking the end of 11 weeks of polar research.
During this campaign, researchers collected data on Arctic sea and land ice – both repeating measurements on rapidly changing areas and expanding coverage into new, unsurveyed regions. The mission also released two sea ice data products and provided a professional development opportunity for three science teachers.
IceBridge Flies Last Four Surveys
A view from a building housing IceBridge’s ground-based GPS equipment at Thule Air Base. Credit: NASA / Rob Russell
Operation IceBridge brought its 2014 Arctic campaign to a close with four more surveys of northern Greenland.
On the morning of May 16 IceBridge mission planners looked at the weather and available flight options. Clouds over the Arctic Ocean meant the team had to stick to land ice flights, and the early Friday closure of Thule's airfield eliminated any surveys on Greenland's east coast, such as the campaign's sole remaining high-priority mission. With these constraints mission planners chose a survey of northwest Greenland known as Northwest Coastal C.
After taking off from Thule, the P-3 followed a series of coast-parallel grid lines spaced about 30 to 35 kilometers (18 to 22 miles) apart. This flight's lines are offset slightly from the Northwest Coastal B survey flown on May 9. Together the Northwest Coastal A, B and C surveys build a grid with lines spaced 10 kilometers (6 miles) apart. A low pressure system over the Canadian Arctic meant low clouds, wind and poor visibility near Thule, leading the team to cut the inland survey lines a bit short on the northern end.
On May 19 IceBridge carried out a glacier survey known as North Glaciers 02 Prime. Mission planners had considered the Connor Corridor sea ice flight as this would be the last time in the campaign for a properly timed satellite underflight, but dense cloud cover prevented it. The chosen mission revisited past Airborne Topographic Mapper lines surveying Academy, Ostfjord and Maria Sophia glaciers. This survey was the last remaining high-priority flight of the campaign.
The next day, May 20, IceBridge researchers carried out a short "mop-up" survey made up of parts of previous flight lines that IceBridge couldn’t complete, mostly because of weather.
On May 21, IceBridge flew the last scheduled science flight of the 2014 Arctic campaign, a survey of northeast Greenland. This survey, Northeast Grid 04, and those flown on May 14 and 15 were part of a series of six newly-designed flights meant to collect data on bedrock topography in northeast Greenland. In addition, the team collected surface elevation data along historic ICESat lines. Measurements from this flight join the other Northeast Grid missions to help give a clearer view of long-term changes to the ice sheet and improved understanding of terrain beneath the ice.
The May 21 flight was the 46th flight of the campaign, surpassing the previous record of 43 flights set in 2012. During the 2014 Arctic campaign IceBridge collected more than 300 hours of science data. On May 23 the team is scheduled to return to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
IceBridge Expands Northeast Greenland Data
Greenland’s Mount Dundas peeking through a layer of fog near Thule Air Base on May 11, 2014. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
IceBridge researchers continued the 2014 Arctic science campaign with more survey flights over land ice in northern Greenland.
On May 9, IceBridge mission planners looked at the Connor Corridor sea ice mission, but although the timing of a satellite overpass was suitable the weather in the target area was not. Instead, IceBridge researchers opted for a high-priority mission to measure parts of northwest Greenland's ice cover.
The Northwest Coast B mission is a newly designed survey meant to sample parallel lines spaced 30 to 35 kilometers (18 to 22 miles) apart from the coast inland up to where the ice sheet is more than 2000 meters (6500 feet) above sea level. Similar missions known as Northwest Coastal A and C use offset coast-parallel lines, and combining these three surveys yields a 10 kilometer (6 mile) grid of measurements. This survey flight also took the P-3 over four surface research sites.
The following Monday, May 12, IceBridge researchers resumed their work with a survey of northern Greenland glaciers. On this flight, the P-3 surveyed historic ICESat ground tracks that were previously flown in 2012. In addition the team measured the center lines of Petermann Glacier, one of the largest in northern Greenland, and the Melville, Tracy, Heilprin and Farquhar glaciers. With near perfect weather, IceBridge collected nearly seven hours of science data before landing back at Thule.
On May 13 the team stayed on the ground while technicians performed maintenance on the P-3, and on May 14 and 15, IceBridge researchers carried out surveys of northeast Greenland.
These flights were part of a suite of six newly-designed missions meant to collect data on bedrock beneath the ice in northeast Greenland. On May 14, the P-3 took off from Thule and crossed the ice sheet to survey close to the coast along a series of historic ICESat tracks. In addition, researchers sampled a pair of lines over north central Greenland flown by the Airborne Topographic Mapper team in the 1990s.
On May 15, the team returned to northeast Greenland to sample coast-parallel lines farther inland, and collected data on a potential ice core drilling site known as East GRIP. Flying historic ICESat and ATM lines gives the team valuable data on long-term changes in ice surface elevation, which is decreasing close to the coast and might be thickening slightly in the central part of the ice sheet.
More Glacier Surveys for IceBridge
A view of mountains and sea ice near Thule Air Base, Greenland, from the NASA P-3 on May 6, 2014. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
Researchers with NASA's Operation IceBridge added three more flights to the books, continuing the campaign's data collection with surveys of major outlet glaciers and elevation across the northern Greenland Ice Sheet.
The morning of May 6, IceBridge mission planners looked at potential flight plans with a primary candidate being a sea ice mission involving the underflight of an orbiting satellite. The satellite's orbit would line up nicely for this flight, but bad weather in the area took that flight off the table. Instead, IceBridge flew a survey of glaciers draining Canadian ice caps.
After takeoff the NASA P-3 flew to Canada's Ellesmere Island to survey glaciers draining the Prince of Wales and southern Agassiz ice caps and the Cadogan, Trinity, Wykeham and Belcher glaciers. These glaciers are of interest to Canadian Space Agency researchers, who designed the mission's flight lines. The survey lines were a mixture of centerlines – flights along the flow direction of the glacier – and flux gates, which are made up of a pair of parallel lines across the glacier that provide researchers a way to measure how much ice moves through. In order to collect wide-swath ice-penetrating radar data on this survey, the P-3 flew at about 3000 feet, just under a layer of mid-level clouds.
On May 7, the team carried out another survey flight, a repeat of missions flown by IceBridge in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. After taking off from Thule Air Base, the P-3 headed out to the Baffin Bay coast of northwest Greenland, targeting 12 outlet glaciers and measuring changes of ice elevation away from the coast to track the spread of ice thinning inland.
The next morning mission planners checked the weather again and prepared for another survey flight. The previous two days had seen weather that was less than perfect, with mid-level clouds that the P-3 was able to fly under on May 6 and mild turbulence on May 7. The forecast for May 8, however, showed clear skies and light wind, so IceBridge carried out a survey of ice elevation across the north-central part of the Greenland Ice Sheet.
The May 8 mission, known as North Central Gap 01, is one of three surveys designed to fill in gaps in measurements of the northern portion of the ice sheet. In addition, this survey focused on the Zacharaie, Storstrommen, Illulipsermia and Kong Oscar Glaciers, areas in northwest Greenland previously measured from 2010 to 2012 and an ice core drilling site.
In two weeks the IceBridge Arctic campaign will come to a close with the P-3 carrying the research team back from Thule Air Base.
IceBridge Completes Last Baseline Flight
Calving front of Humboldt Glacier seen during the May 1, 2014, IceBridge survey flight. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
IceBridge continued its field campaign with surveys of northern Greenland's ice, flights along paths measured by satellites and a line connecting several ice core drilling sites, and completed the season's last remaining top priority mission.
On Apr. 30, IceBridge researchers boarded the P-3 research aircraft for a grid survey of northeast Greenland, but returned to Thule about an hour after takeoff as a safety precaution to address a minor issue with the P-3 aircraft.
Early the next morning, May 1, the part needed to repair the P-3 arrived on the rotator, a regularly scheduled flight between Baltimore-Washington International Airport and Thule Air Base that ferries equipment, supplies and personnel back and forth to Greenland. Within two hours of the rotator touching down NASA aircraft technicians completed repairs and the P-3 was ready to take off.
Researchers collected data between Thule Air Base and Camp Century along a portion of the Greenland Inland Traverse, or GrIT, line. GrIT is a joint effort to move equipment over the ice surface from Thule to inland research stations. The P-3 also overflew a field research site.
On the morning of May 2, the IceBridge team looked at the weather and headed out for a newly designed mission that measured paths surveyed by NASA's ICESat and the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellites and took measurements at an ICESat calibration site near Summit Station. The P-3 surveyed the CryoSat-2 ground track a day before the spacecraft was scheduled to pass overhead and flew at a higher altitude than usual, widening instrument survey swaths to better match the measurements taken by ESA's ice-monitoring satellite. Flying over satellite ground tracks gives researchers data useful for verifying spaceborne measurements.
This survey also followed a line connecting the GRIP, NGRIP, NEEM and Camp Century deep ice core drilling sites. Ice penetrating radar data on this line gives researchers insight into internal layers in the ice sheet, potentially allowing them to connect ice core layers between the various sites.
The following Monday, May 5, IceBridge returned to the air with the mission's last remaining baseline flight, a survey of planned ICESat-2 ground tracks. Baseline surveys are the highest priority flights of the campaign and focus on the most rapidly changing areas of Greenland.
The P-3 overflew several future ICESat-2 lines covering a variety of areas near Thule Air Base. Because ICESat-2's laser altimeter will have three beam pairs, this survey was designed to sample at least one of each pair. In addition, the P-3 measured the flowline of Petermann Glacier and flew over surface research sites near Thule.
IceBridge Surveys Glaciers and North Pole
Drainage channel on the surface of L Bistrup Glacier in northern Greenland seen on the Apr. 29 IceBridge flight. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
IceBridge entered the final weeks of the mission's 2014 Arctic campaign with a return to Thule Air Base and surveys of northern Greenland glaciers and sea ice near the North Pole.
On Apr. 25, the team packed and boarded the NASA P-3 for the short transit flight out of Kangerlussuaq, where the mission has been based since Apr. 4. After settling back in at Thule the team took advantage of a rare opportunity to conduct a science flight on a Saturday. Most of the time the airfield at Thule is closed on the weekend, but it was open to support aircraft participating in Operation Boxtop, an Arctic resupply mission run by the Canadian military.
On Apr. 26, the team had a five hour window between the first and last Boxtop flights during which they flew a shortened survey of glaciers in northwest Greenland. With clear weather in the area, the P-3 flew over several large glaciers on the Baffin Bay coast that have not been previously measured by IceBridge.
The IceBridge team returned to the air on Apr. 28, surveying Arctic Ocean ice. In question was a region between the North Pole and Canada's Ellesmere Island that has seen little attention by IceBridge before 2012. On the way back south the P-3 followed a path along the surface that the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite passed over a few hours later. Collecting data in the same area at roughly the same time as CryoSat-2 helps researchers make accurate ice measurements.
On Apr. 29, the IceBridge team turned their attention back to land ice, measuring glaciers in northeast Greenland. After taking off from Thule, the P-3 transited the northern part of the Greenland Ice Sheet to survey the Zacharaie, 79 N, Storstrommen and L Bistrup glaciers and collect data over surface research sites north of 79 N Glacier. In addition, the team gathered data to and from Thule along lines previously flown by the Airborne Topographic Mapper team during pre-IceBridge surveys going back to 1994.
IceBridge Finishes Work in Kangerlussuaq
A glacier near Penny Ice Cap on Canada’s Baffin Island seen during the Apr. 23 IceBridge survey flight. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
The NASA Operation IceBridge team continued their research campaign with surveys of Greenland on Apr. 21, 23 and 24, marking the end of the mission's Kangerlussuaq deployment.
After a successful survey of the Jakobshavn Glacier the IceBridge team took what is known as a hard down day on Apr. 20 and followed a long IceBridge tradition of a team Easter dinner. Hard down days are required by NASA safety regulations and give aircraft pilots and crew a full day of rest. On other days IceBridge doesn't fly, for example when weather is bad, aircraft technicians will have already been preparing the plane for work.
On Apr. 21, mission planners looked at the forecast and found clear but windy conditions over east Greenland's Geikie Peninsula. That morning, the P-3 left Kangerlussuaq and headed east to survey glaciers last measured by IceBridge in 2010 and 2011.
The P-3 resurveyed several glaciers in the Geikie region, including the Geikie Plateau itself. Several of these glaciers were first flown by IceBridge in 2010 and some were previously measured by pre-IceBridge Airborne Topographic Mapper surveys. On this mission, researchers also collected ice-penetrating radar data aimed at helping Danish research colleagues scout potential ice core drilling sites.
During this flight, the team had favorable weather, but high clouds gave a clue to what was in store the next day. Weather systems southeast of Greenland brought in low clouds over most of the southern half of the island overnight and into the morning of Apr. 22. Because of this IceBridge mission planners opted to cancel the Apr. 22 survey flight.
On Apr. 23, the weather situation in Greenland looked similar to the day before, but with only a couple of days left in the Kangerlussuaq portion of the campaign, mission planners opted to fly a lower priority survey instead of staying on the ground a second day. This day's mission took the P-3 across the Davis Strait to Canada's Baffin Island where researchers collected data on the Penny Ice Cap.
After taking off from Kangerlussuaq, the P-3 headed west at high altitude to Baffin Island, where it began a series of crossing survey lines over the Penny Ice Cap, a large mass of ice that was previous studied by IceBridge in 2013 and by the Airborne Topographic Mapper team in 1995, 2000 and 2005.
The forecast the afternoon of Apr. 23 showed how quickly things change in the Arctic, with more promising conditions on Greenland's east coast. This opened up the opportunity to fly the mission's only remaining baseline flight, a survey of the coast between the Helheim and Kangerdlugssuaq glaciers that has been a top priority since the team arrived in Kangerlussuaq on Apr. 4.
On the morning of Apr. 24, the IceBridge team boarded the NASA P-3 and left snowy Kangerlussuaq for the day's survey. Forecasts for eastern Greenland showed mostly clear conditions with a chance for clouds in the southern end of the survey area. This mission measured the centerlines of several glaciers that are of interest because of the large volume of ice they drain from the Greenland Ice Sheet into the ocean. The team encountered some low clouds traveling to and from the survey area, but the mission's region of interest remained clear.
With the sole remaining baseline mission complete, the IceBridge team returned to Kangerlussuaq to begin the process of packing for the flight back to Thule Air Base to finish the remainder of the campaign. IceBridge will remain in Thule until May 23.
Once More to Jakobshavn
Shadow of the NASA P-3 on the calving front of Greenland’s Jakobshavn Glacier. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
Following two days of grounding due to weather, IceBridge researchers returned to surveying Greenland's ice with another survey of the Jakobshavn Glacier area.
On Apr. 17 and 18, IceBridge mission planners carried out their normal early morning trip to the Kangerlussuaq airport weather office. But instead of finding clear areas to survey, the team found low clouds and high winds throughout Greenland. One of the main driving forces behind IceBridge mission planning is to maximize data collection, so planners opted to stay on the ground.
The evening science meeting on Apr. 18 was more promising than the last two, with forecast models showing some clearing in southeast Greenland and in the west central region near the town of Ilulissat. The following morning, mission planners went to the weather office and found that forecasts of clearing around the Jakobshavn Glacier looked promising. With that, the team boarded the P-3 and took off for another survey of the Jakobshavn Glacier basin.
The Apr. 19 survey was a repeat of missions flown each year since IceBridge began in 2009 and was designed to expand IceBridge coverage over the glacier's lower drainage basin with a series of parallel lines running east and west. These grid lines are perpendicular to the lines in the Jakobshavn Glacier survey on Apr. 9, covering approximately the same area.
This survey also featured surveys of the Rink and Kangerdlugssup glaciers north of Ilulissat, yielding a spectacular view of the glaciers and surrounding mountains. In addition, the P-3 flew a line connecting Swiss Camp, a small research camp on the edge of the ice sheet, with a series of points on the ice sheet that are of interest to the research community.
The Apr. 19 mission was another of IceBridge's seven baseline missions, that is, surveys that are to be repeated each year, bringing the tally of completed baseline flights to five. With less than a week to go before returning to Thule Air Base IceBridge has only one baseline flight – a survey of the eastern Greenland region between the Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim glaciers – that remains to be flown from Kangerlussuaq.
Snowy Start to Southwest
View from the P-3 flight station of the calving front of a southwest Greenland glacier. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
Now in its sixth week, NASA's Operation IceBridge continued research on Arctic ice with two more flights out of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The two surveys differed in location, scenery and flying conditions, but the data collected by both will prove valuable.
On the evening of Apr. 14, the IceBridge team met in the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support Center building to hear about the weather forecast and discuss possible flight plans.
The morning of Apr. 15 brought wind and snow to Kangerlussuaq. After visiting the weather office in the morning, IceBridge mission planners and P-3 pilots examined the situation and chose the flight plan that was the best option. Blowing snow at the airport limited visibility somewhat, but it also caused problems by building up on the outside of the P-3. Shortly before the mission's scheduled takeoff time, the pilots decided it was necessary to deice the aircraft.
Workers from the Kangerlussuaq airport sprayed the P-3 down with a deicing agent to ensure that the aircraft was safe to fly. Unfortunately this meant that members of the instrument teams had to go out afterward to wipe the substance off of clear instrument windows in the P-3's belly. With this complete, the team took their seats and the P-3 headed off on a survey of glaciers in southwestern Greenland.
This mission took the team south from Kangerlussuaq along Greenland's west coast, following the centerlines of glaciers east of Nuuk, Greenland's capital city. After surveying these glaciers, the P-3 turned to fly a grid survey over the southernmost lobe of the Greenland Ice Sheet near the town of Narsarsuaq. Winds in this region blew away clouds, which allowed for a clear view of spectacular terrain but also caused some moderate turbulence.
The team returned to Kangerlussuaq late in the afternoon to partly cloudy skies and light winds, with only a small accumulation to serve as a reminder of the morning's far harsher conditions.
The morning of Apr. 16 was calm and clear when IceBridge researchers, pilots and aircraft crew made their way to the airfield for another flight. The day's flight was another of IceBridge's baseline missions, designed to sample paths that will be measured by NASA's ICESat-2 satellite when it launches.
ICESat-2 orbit tracks will follow a generally north-south direction. Tracks going north to south are known as descending orbits while those going the opposite way are ascending. This means that the satellites ground tracks cross at many points on the Greenland Ice Sheet. The satellite's laser altimeter will also have three beam pairs, measuring three separate swaths on each path. Because of this, the Apr. 16 IceBridge flight sampled three each of these paths for a total of nine north-south lines and connected as many future crossing points as possible with a series of three east-west paths.
After completing these survey lines the P-3 then turned west to sample a large icecap near Kangerlussuaq known as Sukkertoppen (Danish for sugar top). This was part of the Apr. 15 mission, but had to be skipped because of low clouds and turbulence near the ice cap.
With about a week left before heading back to Thule, IceBridge has only two baseline missions out of Kangerlussuaq left to fly.
For more about the IceBridge team's snowy Apr. 15 preflight, visit:
Weather Plays a Role
Icebergs in the fjord in front of Helheim Glacier seen during the Apr. 12, 2014, IceBridge flight. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
Researchers with NASA's Operation IceBridge continued their work with more surveys of Greenland's ice sheet and glaciers.
As is often the case when working in the Arctic, weather proved to be a deciding factor on Apr. 11. At the weather office that morning, mission planners saw a forecast that showed low-pressure system off the east coast of Greenland bringing clouds and 40 to 50 mile per hour winds into one of IceBridge's high-priority survey areas. Weather models also showed chances of low clouds in many other regions of the country so mission planners decided to cancel the day's flight.
The forecast for Apr. 12 showed clearer conditions, so that morning the P-3 left Kangerlussuaq for a survey covering a series of surface of research stations, the centerline of Helheim Glacier and a grid of that glacier's catchment basin.
After taking off, the team headed south to a set of surface research sites straddling the ice divide. An ice divide is the point on an ice sheet that separates the direction flows. This cluster of sites were put in place by Ohio State University researchers in the 1980s to measure ice surface elevation and the same area has been repeatedly measured since then.
After flying over these research sites, the P-3 headed farther west to collect data on Helheim Glacier and part of its catchment basin, which is the portion of the ice sheet that feeds into a glacier. To do this the team surveyed the entire length of the glacier's centerline and then flew a grid pattern over the basin. On the way back, the P-3 collected data over four surface research sites run by PROMICE, or Programme for Monitoring of the Greenland Ice Sheet, which was launched by the Danish government to study changes in Greenland's ice, and surveyed a core drilling site near a decommissioned radar station known as DYE-3.
After a down day due to airfield closure, the team resumed their work on Apr. 14 with a survey of western Greenland glaciers. This mission expanded a series of ICESat tracks farther inland on the Jakobshavn Glacier, added coverage over the Eqip Glacier's catchment area and collected ice elevation and thickness data along the centerlines of the Eqip Sermia, Kangilerngata Sermia, Sermeq Kujalleq and Store glaciers. In addition, researchers measured three small ice caps on the Nussuaq Peninsula north of Ilulissat. This survey is one of IceBridge's baseline missions, meaning it is to be repeated each year.
Expanding Jakobshavn Coverage
Summit Station seen from the NASA P-3 during the Apr. 10, 2014, IceBridge survey flight. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
NASA's Operation IceBridge continued its 2014 Arctic campaign with a survey of the rapidly changing Jakobshavn Glacier and a survey that included a pass over the National Science Foundation's Summit Station. Both of these flights are part of the newly classified set of seven baseline missions designed to monitor elevation in rapidly changing parts of Greenland.
The morning of Apr. 9 was another chilly one, with a low temperature of around -15 degrees Fahrenheit. After warming up the P-3 and its instruments, the IceBridge team took off for a survey of Jakobshavn Glacier, the fastest moving one in Greenland.
After taking off from Kangerlussuaq, the P-3 turned north and flew a series of north-south lines over Jakobshavn Glacier, gradually moving toward the coast and then flying up the glacier's centerline. The rest of the flight covered tracks previously measured by NASA's ICESat satellite. Comparing current measurements with these historic ICESat lines allows researchers to determine how ice elevation has changed there.
On Apr. 10 IceBridge mission planners went to the morning weather briefing to get an update on a forecast from the previous afternoon. Weather models were projecting considerably warmer temperatures but with strong southerly winds. With a runway running from east to west this would make for a heavy crosswind if coming from a direction where wind wouldn't be blocked by nearby bluffs.
The new forecast showed a likelihood of high winds, but from a more favorable direction, so the team boarded the P-3 for a mission known as K-EGIG-Summit. After taking off, the team headed east over a line of mass balance measuring sites known as the K Transect and the turned north to survey three ICESat ground tracks, expanding coverage of the Jakobshavn Glacier basin, before heading north to fly near Summit Station.
Summit Station is a National Science Foundation run research facility high on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Of interest on this mission is a ground traverse measuring surface elevation done by researchers there several times per year. This traverse path was used to verify the accuracy of measurements made by ICESat in the early 2000s and will do the same for ICESat-2 after it launches, so keeping regular track of ice elevation there is vital.
After Summit the team continued east to the edge of the ice sheet and turned back west, following the route taken by the International Geological Expedition to Greenland, known as EGIG. This expedition measured surface mass balance as it traversed the Greenland ice sheet on skis in the 1950s. The EGIG line has been repeatedly measured over the years and is expected to be surveyed again as part of the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 verification campaign known as CryoVEx.
With about two weeks left before IceBridge heads back to Thule there are still a number of areas left to survey. And with two baseline missions complete and one that uses Thule as a base, the team only has four baseline missions left to fly from Kangerlussuaq.
East, Southwest and Southeast
Valley sidewall of east Greenland’s Violin Glacier seen during the Apr. 5, 2014, IceBridge flight. Credit: NASA / George Hale
NASA's Operation IceBridge continued its Arctic science activities from its new base of operations in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.
After arriving in Kangerlussuaq on Apr. 4, the team set up ground equipment and checked the weather to see about flight options for the next day. The morning of Apr. 5 the P-3 took off from the Kangerlussuaq airport and crossed the Greenland Ice Sheet to map the centerlines of several glaciers on the island's central east coast.
On this flight, researchers surveyed the DeGeer, Jaette, Nodrdenskiold, Wahlenberg, Violin and Nord glaciers. In addition, IceBridge surveyed a line between two ice core drilling sites, GRIP and DYE2, collecting ice-penetrating radar data to link the two cores and help researchers with dating of internal layers of the ice sheet.
On Sunday the Kangerlussuaq airport is closed, so that day is reserved as a hard down day. With a day to rest everyone spent time catching up on emails, processing data and further settling in. That evening the team met to discuss weather, possible flight options and logistical matters.
The morning of Apr. 7 brought temperatures of about 15 degrees below zero Fahrenheit when IceBridge's day started. This meant it took a little extra time to get the aircraft ready to fly because the P-3 sits out on the ramp overnight instead of in a hangar like in Thule. After warming up the P-3 and its onboard instrument gear, the team took off for the day's flight.
Target areas in the eastern half of Greenland and Disko Bay off the central west coast were covered by low clouds, so mission planners chose a survey of the southwest coast where the weather was clear. This new mission is one of two designed to mirror coast-parallel coverage in southeast Greenland. By flying parallel lines along the coast, moving inland with each pass, researchers are able to measure elevation changes at different points across several southwest Greenland glaciers.
IceBridge took off again after another cold start on Apr. 8, this time to survey 10 glaciers in southeast Greenland. This region is of high scientific interest and is often covered by clouds thanks to a persistent low pressure system in the Denmark Strait. Clear weather in this area usually is the result of high-speed winds from high on the ice sheet blowing clouds away. But in this case winds were expected to be relatively low, which would make for a smoother flight.
After crossing the Greenland Ice Sheet along a path previously surveyed by ICESat, the P-3 conducted a series of centerline surveys starting with Pursortaq Glacier in the south and moving up the coast over nine more glaciers before heading back to Kangerlussuaq. Data gathered on these glaciers will help researchers better understand how much ice moves through this region. One of the glaciers surveyed this day was Koge Bugt, which a recent paper using IceBridge data determined was the second largest contributor to Greenland's ice discharge since 2000.
The IceBridge team has a little more than two weeks left in Kangerlussuaq, with several high-priority targets remaining, such as Jakobshavn Glacier on Greenland's west coast.
For more about how IceBridge handles the cold, visit:
Mapping Canadian Glaciers and Leaving Thule
Glaciers on Canada’s Ellesmere Island seen during the Apr. 1 IceBridge survey flight: Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
IceBridge closed out the first Thule portion of the 2014 Arctic campaign with detailed surveys of Canadian glaciers and one more sea ice study.
On Apr. 1 the IceBridge team flew from Thule toward Canada's Ellesmere Island, just to the west of Greenland. The objective for the day was to collect data on the major outlet glaciers of the North Ellesmere and northern Agassiz ice caps. IceBridge researchers used the Airborne Topographic Mapper laser altimeter to measure ice surface elevation and the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder to measure ice thickness and map the topography of rock beneath the ice.
For many of these glaciers the P-3 flew along over the centerline of the glacier to collect data. For others, the team flew flux gates, or a pair of parallel lines across the glacier, which gives researchers a way to track how much ice is flowing from the ice cap into the ocean.
In addition, the team resurveyed a line on Eureka Sound, repeating snow depth measurements taken on Mar. 25 in support of Canadian Space Agency research.
After returning from this mission, IceBridge mission planners looked at the forecast and saw that the next day's weather looked unfavorable. As expected a storm system moved in and on Apr. 2 the team was again confined indoors because of a strong winter storm.
This system weakened later in the day and on Apr. 3 the P-3 left for one last scientific survey before heading to Kangerlussuaq. This mission was a repeat of a flight made in 2012 to sample sea ice in the Arctic Basin. Conditions along this flight's path were mostly clear, with a small amount of fog at the southern end of the line that didn't affect instrument performance.
On Apr. 4, the IceBridge team packed their bags and boarded the P-3 to make the trip to Kangerlussuaq. During the three-hour-long flight south from Thule over Baffin Bay off the west coast of Greenland. With this relocation, IceBridge will turn its attention to glaciers in the southern half of Greenland for the next three weeks.
IceBridge Continues Sea Ice Study
A lone iceberg sitting in thin sea ice seen from the NASA P-3 on Mar. 28, 2014. Credit: NASA / Jim Yungel
The IceBridge team continued the 2014 Arctic campaign, following a successful survey of Canadian glaciers with more sea ice flights separated by a day of bad weather.
On Mar. 26, the day after collecting data on Axel Heiberg Island, the NASA P-3 flew from Thule Air Base to measure thick multi-year ice near Ellesmere Island and thinner ice farther north. On one of the legs of this mission was modified to follow the path the European Space Agency's ice-measuring satellite, CryoSat-2, had taken just three hours before. In addition, the team was able to collect high-altitude data while crossing Ellesmere Island.
The next morning, Mar. 27, the IceBridge team remained at Thule because of the weather. High winds and blowing snow kept the P-3 on the ground and reduced visibility at Thule meant the base was under Storm Condition Bravo, meaning travel around the base was restricted. During this time the team stayed inside the hangar to work on instruments, process data collected during earlier flights and check the next day's weather forecast.
The morning of Mar. 28 brought better conditions and the team headed out of Thule to a region of the Canada Basin that is of interest to the Canadian Space Agency and had seen little coverage before 2012. After takeoff the P-3 crossed over Ellesmere Island and headed out over the Arctic Ocean to collect sea ice elevation data. With clear conditions researchers were able to collect data along the entire survey line before heading back to Thule to arrive before the airfield closed in the afternoon.
The team took Saturday and Sunday to process data and plan upcoming missions. With a clear forecast on Monday Mar. 31, the P-3 took flight again for a sea ice survey designed to coordinate with the ESA CryoSat-2 validation campaign known as CryoVEx. On this mission, IceBridge passed over a CryoVEx research camp near Cape Morris Jesup, the northernmost point of mainland Greenland and flew along two CryoSat-2 ground tracks.
For more about Thule's Storm Conditions, visit:
IceBridge Returns from Alaska
Eureka Sound on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic seen during the Mar. 25, 2014 IceBridge flight. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
IceBridge researchers followed up a successful week in Alaska with a return to Greenland and scientific flights over Arctic sea ice and Canadian glaciers.
Just after midnight on Mar. 21, the team boarded the P-3 to return to Thule. The team flew for the first few hours in darkness, crossing the Arctic Basin and five time zones on the way back to Greenland. The 1 a.m. departure was to ensure that the P-3 could arrive in Thule before the airfield closed in the afternoon. This mission's path across took the P-3 farther south than the flight to Alaska, allowing the team to collect data across a different stretch of the Arctic Basin. The two flights between Alaska and Greenland have been flown each year since 2009, giving insight on year-to-year changes across different parts of the Arctic Basin.
After a weekend back in Thule, the IceBridge team carried out another survey of sea ice from Thule Air Base on Mar. 24. This mission was designed to survey sea ice passing through the Fram Strait between northeast Greenland and Svalbard, a chain of islands in the Arctic Ocean, and ice south of this gateway as it travels along Greenland's coast. With largely good weather, the team was able to collect several hours-worth of ice elevation data before returning to Thule at high altitude.
On Mar. 25 the IceBridge team conducted a challenging coordinated survey of parts of the Canadian Arctic. This flight was partially in support of an agreement between NASA and the Canadian Space Agency. After taking off from Thule, the P-3 made its way north through the Nares Strait between Greenland and Canada before turning to head toward a survey site near the Canadian weather station at Eureka on Ellesmere Island. While in the area, the team was able to see researchers on the ground and another research aircraft surveying the same line 400 feet below. After flying the survey grid near Eureka the P-3 turned west to survey the Thompson, Iceberg and Good Friday glaciers on Axel Heiberg Island.
Over the next several days the IceBridge team will finish up high priority sea ice missions and carry out more coordinated surveys before heading south to Kangerlussuaq on Apr. 4.
Finishing Up in Fairbanks
Mountains in the Brooks Range seen from the P-3 during IceBridge’s Apr. 19 sea ice survey. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
Researchers closed out IceBridge's deployment to Fairbanks with two more sea ice surveys off of the Alaskan coast before returning to Greenland. On these flights, IceBridge researchers collected data on sea ice thickness and snow cover over ice surfaces of varying roughness, and coordinated with scientists at a research camp on the ice below.
On Mar. 18 the IceBridge team took off from Fairbanks on a newly-designed mission to survey sea ice in the eastern Beaufort Sea. This area is of interest to Canadian Space Agency researchers and has seen little prior coverage by IceBridge. In addition, this flight included multiple passes over a camp for researchers from the Office of Naval Research's Marginal Ice Zone and the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 validation campaign known as CryoVEx.
This research camp sits on drifting sea ice in the Beaufort Sea, meaning that the camp could move a significant distance in the time it took the P-3 to get there from Fairbanks. But by using the camp's position and speed before takeoff together with regular updates from IceBridge team members back on the ground the P-3 was able to hit the bull's-eye and line up 10 passes over the camp.
The next morning, Mar. 19, the P-3 headed out on the season's last survey to take off and land at Fairbanks. The mission, a repeat of one first flown in 2012, was designed to study ice in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas. Low clouds at the beginning of the flight obscured the ice from the P-3's laser and camera instruments, but after about 40 minutes conditions cleared up and researchers were able to collect good data for the rest of the flight.
The next step for the IceBridge team is a return flight back to Thule. The route for this flight will allow researchers to collect data on sea ice across the Arctic Basin, this time farther south than on the trip to Alaska. The yearly deployment in Fairbanks and the transit flights there and back have added valuable data on sea ice conditions. Once back at Thule the team will prepare for the next round of flights from Thule, which will run until researchers head south to Kangerlussuaq on Apr. 4.
IceBridge Heads to Alaska
Mountains in Alaska’s Brooks Range seen during the IceBridge survey flight from Thule, Greenland to Fairbanks, Alaska. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
After two successful surveys from Thule Air Base, NASA's Operation IceBridge packed up and headed to Fairbanks, Alaska, for a temporary deployment there. For the past few years IceBridge has flown surveys from Fairbanks to study sea ice in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska. These flights allow researchers to study a region of growing interest and collect data across the entire Arctic Basin on the way between Greenland and Alaska.
On the morning of Mar. 14, the IceBridge team boarded the P-3 and flew from Thule to Fairbanks, collecting sea ice data along the way during the more than eight hour trip. The path flown was almost an exact repeat of missions going back to 2009. This flight and the upcoming return trip to Thule gives researchers a view of sea ice thickness and distribution across the Arctic Ocean. Weather along the survey path was good, with clear conditions at survey altitude. "It is very rare that an area as large as the entire Arctic Basin is cloud free at 1,500 feet or below," said Michael Studinger, IceBridge's project scientist.
After arriving in Alaska, IceBridge turned around and flew a survey the following day. On Mar. 15, researchers surveyed a north-south line in the southern Beaufort Sea. On one leg of this mission, IceBridge researchers planned to coordinate with researchers with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab and Naval Research Lab working near Barrow, Alaska. The preflight weather forecast looked promising, but when the P-3 entered the survey area the team found thick low-level clouds that prevented laser and visual instruments from collecting any data. Once farther offshore, the clouds broke and researchers were able to collect data for the rest of the flight.
On Mar. 17, IceBridge returned to the air following a down day for crew rest. On tap was a newly-designed mission to survey sea ice in the Beaufort Sea that included a second attempt at coordinating with researchers near Barrow. Shortly after takeoff the P-3 arrived at the survey area and made seven precisely aligned passes over the survey site.
IceBridge has a couple more surveys to fly from Fairbanks before finishing up its week-long Alaska deployment. Once finished, the P-3 will head back across the Arctic Basin to continue collecting sea ice data out of Thule Air Base in Greenland.
IceBridge Starts With Sea Ice Surveys
Moon shot over northeast Greenland while descending into the survey area north of the Fram Strait. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
NASA's Operation IceBridge started the 2014 Arctic campaign with two surveys of sea ice north of Greenland. The two flights follow similar surveys flow in previous years and continue the mission's goals of collecting data on changing sea ice in the Arctic.
Following the Mar. 10 transit flight from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia to Thule Air Base, Greenland, the IceBridge team continued preparing for the weeks of work ahead. On Mar. 11 the team unpacked cargo and set up ground-based GPS stations that are used to ensure IceBridge's instruments are accurate.
The next morning, Mar. 12, researchers, pilots and flight crew boarded the P-3 and took off for the first science flight of the campaign, a mission called Sea Ice – Nansen Gap. This survey was a variation of flights over the Fram Strait flown in previous years that sampled ice farther north and east than in the past. Researchers used the mission's laser and radar instruments to collect data on sea ice elevation and snow depth and collected ice thickness and elevation data while flying high over the Greenland Ice Sheet.
While studying the ice below, the team was treated to interesting sights in the sky during this flight. Shortly after takeoff the moon made an appearance on the horizon, giving those aboard the aircraft a good photo opportunity. In addition the team got to see the sun setting twice – once on the eastern end of the survey line and again when returning to Thule Air Base. At this time of year days are short at high latitudes, making this sort of thing common.
On Mar. 13, the IceBridge team carried out their second survey of the campaign, a flight plan known as Sea Ice – Zigzag East. On this flight the P-3 headed north-northeast out of Thule, roughly following the coast of Greenland along the Nares Strait—a narrow body of water separating Greenland and Canada's Ellesmere Island. Then researchers headed along an alternating north and south pattern to measure how sea ice thickness changes closer to the North Pole, something known as ice gradient. On this flight, researchers collected data on thick, multi-year ice near the coast and thinner ice farther north.
With two successful surveys and nearly three weeks left before the mission moves south to Kangerlussuaq, IceBridge is off to a successful start. Over the next several days the mission plans to collect even more sea ice data, including a cross-basin survey of the Arctic Ocean and several flights based out of Fairbanks, Alaska, over the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
NASA IceBridge Begins New Arctic Campaign
NASA's P-3 leaving the hangar at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia in preparation for IceBridge’s flight to Thule Air Base, Greenland, on the morning of Mar. 10, 2014. Credit: NASA / Patrick Black
NASA's Operation IceBridge airborne science mission has begun a new season of flights to collect data on Arctic land and sea ice. Researchers on board NASA's P-3 research aircraft left NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., on March 10 for Greenland.
IceBridge is aimed at gathering data on changing polar ice and maintaining continuity of measurements between NASA's Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which stopped functioning in 2009, and its successor, ICESat-2, scheduled for launch in 2017. By flying yearly campaigns, IceBridge is able to monitor key rapidly-changing areas of polar land and sea ice. Flights run through May 23 from Thule Air Base and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and a week-long deployment in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Over the past five years, IceBridge has surveyed large portions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and sea ice in both polar regions. IceBridge data have been used to build detailed maps of bedrock in Greenland and Antarctica, calculate changes in Arctic sea ice thickness and volume, and improve understanding of glacier discharge rates in Greenland.
NASA IceBridge Science Team Plans for Future
Researchers review proposed IceBridge flight lines during mission’s science team meeting at NASA Goddard. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger
Twice a year, members of NASA's Operation IceBridge science team meet to discuss the mission's goals and progress, to define plans for upcoming field campaigns and get feedback from the scientific community. The science team met from January 28 through 30, 2014, at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
This was the first meeting for IceBridge's new science team, which will serve from 2014 until 2017.
More IceBridge Multimedia
View and download IceBridge edited features, animations, footage and more from the Scientific Visualization Studio at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.