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IceBridge - Greenland 2013

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IceBridge - Greenland 2013

11.20.13
NASA Team Finishes Greenland Campaign

NASA’s C-130 research aircraft on the ramp at Thule Air Base in Greenland. › View larger
The Wallops C-130 aircraft is at the top of the world. The aircraft is based in Thule, Greenland in support of the Operation IceBridge mission. At dawn, prior to a science flight, the C-130 is fueled and warmed up for the day ahead. Credit: NASA

Researchers aboard NASA's C-130 aircraft finished out their field campaign with one more successful survey before leaving Thule to return to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. With this final survey that resampled existing survey lines previously flown by Operation IceBridge, this airborne mission and its two laser altimeters closed out a successful scientific campaign.

On Nov. 13, a weather system moved into Greenland that prevented the Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor team from flying any of their planned surveys. Weather is one of the major factors controlling airborne missions in polar regions, but things changed for the better just as quickly when conditions turned favorable the next day.

On the morning of Nov. 14, LVIS researchers boarded the C-130 for the final flight of the campaign. As is often the case, the previous day's bad conditions improved over the planned survey area of northwest Greenland. "Weather was clear except in the southern tip of the lines where we began to fly in haze, but data collection wasn't affected," said LVIS mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, College Park.

A photo of the LVIS team in Thule, Greenland, shortly before heading back to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. › View larger
A photo of the LVIS team in Thule, Greenland, shortly before heading back to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Credit: NASA

After returning from the flight the team packed up and prepared for the 8 a.m. return flight to NASA Wallops and daylight, as Thule, Greenland, is dark most of the day this time of year. During the approximately two-week-long campaign, researchers and technicians completed nine science flights that yielded new data on land and sea ice during a time of year that typically sees few surveys.

Many of these flights revisited lines flown by NASA's Operation IceBridge during the 2013 spring campaign, which will allow researchers to determine how the ice surface changed over the summer. Other flights followed historic ICESat lines, helping add to the overall dataset of change in Greenland, while more still coincided with tracks by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2. Those coinciding flights provide additional data for verifying the satellite's measurements.

The campaign was also the debut of NASA's C-130 research aircraft, which is based at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The aircraft's ability to fly relatively high – 27,000 feet – and long range helped the LVIS team survey a total area roughly the size of the state of West Virginia, approximately 29,000 square miles (75,000 square kilometers).

"The C-130 has been a great platform and has enabled us to collect an exciting and useful data set," said Hofton. "With it we can monitor seasonal changes for a large area of the perimeter of Greenland and build a reference elevation data set to which measurements from future spaceborne sensors such as ICESat-2 can be compared."
 



11.15.13
A Second Round from Thule

The C-130 aircraft being fueled and prepared for a day of science flights. › View larger
The Wallops C-130 aircraft is at the top of the world. The aircraft is based in Thule, Greenland in support of the Operation IceBridge mission. At dawn, prior to a science flight, the C-130 is fueled and warmed up for the day ahead. Credit: NASA

After a round of successful flights, the LVIS team continued surveys out of Thule that revisited parts of Greenland measured in the past by Operation IceBridge, ICESat and LVIS. Two of these flights also focused on the fastest moving ice stream in Greenland, Jakobshavn Glacier.

On Nov. 6, the NASA C-130 flew out of Thule on a survey of the north central portion of Greenland's ice sheet. The flight plan for this day repeated several of the lines flown by the P-3 during IceBridge's 2013 Arctic campaign. This included two transects across Greenland, part of a grid survey on the west coast and portions of two ICESat tracks. Thanks to another mostly clear day, researchers were able to gather good data except for in the northernmost portion of the ICESat lines, which were obscured by clouds.

Following a scheduled no-fly day on Nov. 7, the team returned to the air for a survey of six ICESat lines over Jakobshavn Glacier on Nov.8. These historic ICESat tracks were flown by the IceBridge P-3 earlier in the year and two of the lines were surveyed by LVIS in September of 2007. Again there was relatively clear weather with only portions over the ocean seeing cloud cover.

Perfect conditions don't last forever, though, and on Nov. 9 the most promising area looked to be on Greenland's west coast with a hole in the cloud cover near Jakobshavn. The NASA C-130 left Thule and transited over the clouds to the glacier to repeat a 6 mile (10 kilometer) grid survey of Jakobshavn previously flown by the P-3 during IceBridge's 2013 Arctic campaign.

On Nov. 12, the LVIS team carried out one more survey of northern Greenland, once again timing their flight to coincide with an overhead CryoSat-2 pass. The C-130 left Thule and flew along Greenland's northwest coast before turning inland and following a straight track in a southeastern direction. CryoSat-2 passed over this line about 20 minutes before the C-130 reached it.

Looking ahead, the LVIS team will soon finish up their campaign and head home. Thanks to the number of potential surveys out of Thule, the team started and finished their campaign there. This meant that researchers were able to collect data without spending a day moving the mission's base of operations south to Kangerlussuaq.
 


11.08.13
Productive Flights for NASA Greenland Campaign

Map of the Nov. 5 survey of Arctic sea ice.
Map of the Nov. 5 survey of Arctic sea ice. This survey was a coordinated underflight of the European Space Agency’s satellite CryoSat-2. The straight line indicates both the C-130’s flight path and CryoSat-2’s track as it passed overhead. Credit: NASA / Michelle Hofton

Researchers aboard NASA's C-130 research aircraft started off the first week of a field campaign in Greenland with surveys measuring land and sea ice. With four science flights out of Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, the team collected elevation data on sea ice in two regions of the Arctic Ocean and portions of the Greenland ice sheet using two versions of a laser altimeter called the Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor or LVIS.

The C-130 made its way from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., on Oct. 30 and took off for the campaign's first flight on the next day. On the morning of Oct. 31, researchers flew out of Thule to carry out a high-altitude survey of sea ice in the southern part of the Arctic Basin. The team had clear weather on the way out with some patchy clouds on the way back.

Clouds can interfere with laser altimeters, but the instruments were able to collect data on 95 percent of the flight. "We also got some great data over Canadian icecaps on Ellesmere Island on our way in to Thule," said Michelle Hofton LVIS mission scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and the University of Maryland, College Park.

The campaign's next two flights measured northwestern portions of the Greenland ice sheet. On Nov. 1, the C-130 repeated three survey lines flown by Operation IceBridge during the spring 2013 Arctic campaign and shorter segments of IceBridge lines from previous years. Comparing measurements from the same area at different times of the year should show how ice there fared during the summer.

After a no-fly day on Sunday, the team carried out a variation of the Nov. 1 land ice survey. On this six-hour-long flight, researchers measured ice elevation along IceBridge 2013 lines closer to the coast.

On Nov. 5, the team carried out another sea ice survey. This flight followed the path taken by the European Space Agency's CryoSat-2 satellite that morning. The C-130 flew parallel to Greenland's northwest coast until it reached the area where CryoSat-2 would pass overhead about 15mins into the main fight line.

Coordinated flights like this provide researchers with valuable scientific data. "Comparison of elevation data from the two LVIS instruments with data from the instrument on CryoSat will provide an opportunity to calibrate and validate the satellite data and give us a snapshot of sea ice conditions in the Arctic," said Hofton.

In the next several days, the LVIS team will continue flights from Thule before heading south to Kangerlussuaq for the second phase of the campaign.




10.31.13
NASA Begins Airborne Campaign to Map Greenland Ice Sheet Summer Melt

A pond of melt water on the Greenland ice sheet seen in 2008. › View larger
A pond of melt water on the Greenland ice sheet seen in 2008. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger

For the first time, a NASA airborne campaign will measure changes in the height of the Greenland Ice Sheet and surrounding Arctic sea ice produced by a single season of summer melt.

NASA's C-130 research aircraft flew from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., to Greenland on Wednesday where they will conduct survey flights to collect data that will improve our understanding of seasonal melt and provide baseline measurements for future satellite missions. Flights are scheduled to continue through Nov. 16.

The land and sea ice data gathered during this campaign will give researchers a more comprehensive view of seasonal changes and provide context for measurements that will be gathered during NASA's ICESat-2 mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2016.

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08.29.13
NASA Data Reveals Mega-Canyon under Greenland Ice Sheet

Hidden for all of human history, a 460 mile long canyon has been discovered below Greenland's ice sheet. › View larger
Hidden for all of human history, a 460 mile long canyon has been discovered below Greenland's ice sheet. Using radar data from NASA's Operation IceBridge, scientists found the canyon runs from near the center of the island northward to the fjord of the Petermann Glacier. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

Data from a NASA airborne science mission reveals evidence of a large and previously unknown canyon hidden under a mile of Greenland ice.

The canyon has the characteristics of a winding river channel and is at least 460 miles (750 kilometers) long, making it longer than the Grand Canyon. In some places, it is as deep as 2,600 feet (800 meters), on scale with segments of the Grand Canyon. This immense feature is thought to predate the ice sheet that has covered Greenland for the last few million years.

"One might assume that the landscape of the Earth has been fully explored and mapped," said Jonathan Bamber, professor of physical geography at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, and lead author of the study. "Our research shows there's still a lot left to discover."

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Page Last Updated: November 25th, 2013
Page Editor: Holly Zell