IceBridge - Arctic 2011


    Arctic 2011 Science Flights Complete

    Tracy Gletscher glacier Tracy Gletscher glacier. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
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    Teams and crew in Thule, Greenland, await the arrival of a part for the P-3 before flying back to Wallops Island, Va., and concluding the Arctic 2011 campaign of Operation IceBridge.

    The campaign’s final science flight on May 16 avoided coastal clouds and flew survey lines more than 40 miles from the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet. The new baseline data are expected to help researchers identify how thinning propagates inland. The P-3 also surveyed two glaciers in west Greenland including Tracy Gletscher.

    As of May 15, the P-3 had flown more than 75,000 miles on science missions during the Arctic 2011 deployment, equal to a distance of three times around Earth at the equator.

    On May 13, conditions were unusually free of low clouds and fog along coastal areas in Greenland’s northwest, allowing for a science flight there over some of the region’s glaciers.

    Poor weather on May 12 took IceBridge south to Canada, where the P-3 surveyed Barnes Ice Cap on Baffin Island (above), followed by another centerline run over Bylot Island.

    On May 11, clouds obscured most of the remaining science targets including Greenland’s northwest coastal areas, but the teams managed to complete two glacier runs further inland.

    Weather was better on May 10 over the Canadian Arctic for a survey of several glaciers and small ice caps on Ellesmere Island, Axel Heiberg Island and Meighen Island, including the Prince of Whales Ice Field and the Agassiz Ice Cap. Visit the IceBridge blog for a recap of the campaign’s ice cap surveys.

    On May 9, the P-3 flew along the centerlines of several glaciers in northern Greenland, including Steensby, Ryder, and Hagen Glacier.


    LVIS Has Left the Building

    The B200 with › View larger
    The B200 departs Greenland, headed home to NASA’s Langley research Center in Hampton, Va. Credit: NASA/Bryan Blair
    On May 7, the B200 flew its final flight for the Arctic 2011 campaign of Operation IceBridge. The aircraft carried LVIS -- a high-altitude laser altimeter – and surveyed the southwestern coast of Greenland from southern Disko Bay to Narsarsuaq. The B200 departed Greenland on May 9 and headed home to NASA’s Langley research Center in Hampton, Va.

    "I would like to thank the LVIS and B200 teams for their hard work, dedication and over-achievements in the field this season," said Lora Koenig, the mission’s deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.

    Also on May 7, the P-3 completed all planned flights over Petermann Glacier for Arctic 2011 campaign. Combined with surveys of the glacier from 2010, teams completed a 10-kilometer grid of flight lines over the glacier's entire catchment area.

    On May 6, the P-3 flew over the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM), a new ice core project looking to achieve a high-resolution climate record from the last interglacial between 115,000 and 130,000 years ago, when Greenland was about 5 C warmer than present. Instruments collected data over a 10-kilometer-wide swath to map the bed and internal ice layers. Knowing the age of internal layers from drilling sites at the ends of the swath, researchers can model depth and ice age along the ice divide. Together with the 3-D bedrock elevation, the information is expected to improve ice-flow models.

    On May 5, IceBridge completed its third and final flight in conjunction with an experiment operated by the European Space Agency (ESA). The experiment, called CryoVEx, is a series of ground-based calibration sites for ESA's ice-observing satellite, CryoSat-2. IceBridge flights over these calibration sites ultimately are expected to provide data to evaluate and improve remote-sensing measurements.


    Ice Stream Survey and a Windshield Repair

    Chunks of ice are transported in the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream, that drains the northeastern region of the ice sheet. › View larger
    Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel
    On May 2, IceBridge flew over the Northeast Greenland Ice Stream, completing the survey grid designed to map the lower trunk of the ice stream and several tributaries nearby. Chunks of ice are transported in the stream (right) that drains the northeastern region of the ice sheet.

    IceBridge has flown more than 200 hours during science flights with the P-3 during the 2011 Arctic deployment, and only one canceled flight day due to weather. That could soon change, however, as a storm is in the forecast.

    The B200 aircraft is also logging flight hours again following a successful windshield repair and test flight. Returning to flight on May 2, the B200 flew a grid pattern east of Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, followed by a survey down the flow line of Isunguata Sermia, a glacier in southwest Greenland.

    On April 29, the P-3 flew a medium-priority mission over the catchment area of Petermann Gletscher that when combined with two other surveys will result in a 10-kilometer grid over the glacier’s entire catchment area. During a turn between two science waypoints, the P-3 flew over the wreck of a B-29 named Kee Bird that crash-landed there in 1947.


    Return to Thule

    The P-3B on the ground in Thule, Greenland. › View larger
    Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
    IceBridge teams completed four weeks of science flights from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and arrived on April 28 in Thule (right), where the remainder of the campaign’s science flights will be flown.

    The final science flight from Kangerlussuaq on April 26 surveyed the Geikie Plateau and nearby glaciers -- the mission's final high-priority flight plan.

    Poor weather over the Geikie Plateau on April 25 provided the opportunity for a different kind of flight. Teams used the radar instruments onboard to search for a U.S. Coast Guard J2F-4 Grumman Duck that crashed near Koge Bugt/Pikiutdleq Glacier in 1942.

    On April 23, IceBridge flew along the western central coast of Greenland. The early portion of the flight passed over some beautiful scenery with glaciers emptying into fjords and some open water to the west, followed by slightly cloudy conditions as the flight lines progressed inland.

    The B200 aircraft, flying IceBridge’s high-altitude laser altimeter, continues to make successful science flights over Greenland. On April 22, the aircraft had flown 126 nautical miles over tracks surveyed by the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite, as well as six grid lines along Greenland's coast.

    The P-3 returned to Greenland on April 21 from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., where engineers successfully exchanged the aircraft’s leaking hydraulic pump.


    Flying Up the Middle of Midgard

    Midgard Glacier › View larger
    Midgard Glacier. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
    On April 19, IceBridge's 23rd flight surveyed the centerline of Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier, Helheim Glacier, and several branches of Midgard Glacier. Midgard Glacier (right) has changed rapidly in recent years, making it of particular interest to researchers.

    The P-3 crew navigated through clouds and moderate turbulence on April 18 to reach the fjords in southeast Greenland. A post-flight weather brief confirmed that the southeast was the clearest region and only viable site for a science flight. On April 16, the high priority targets in the southeast were socked in. So, teams re-flew the grid pattern over Jakobshavn to evaluate the repeatability of the magnetic measurements, and again over Russell Glacier to collect more data for a three-dimensional image of the bedrock beneath the glacier.

    April 15 was a key day for IceBridge. Coordination with the European Space Agency (ESA) resulted in a successful overflight of a ground-based calibration campaign called CRYOVEX. Measurements from the air and ground will be used to calibrate and validate measurements from ESA's ice-observing CryoSat-2 satellite. The same day marked the start of the deployment of a high-altitude lidar instrument on the B200 aircraft -- the first time that IceBridge has simultaneously operated two NASA planes.


    Halfway There!

    What looks like clouds is actually wind-blown snow. › View larger
    Wind blown snow and 70 knot winds made for a bumpy ride on the April 11, 2011 IceBridge flight. Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
    Kangerlussuaq, Greenland -- After the flight on April 11, 2011, Operation IceBridge accumulated more than 50 percent of the total flight hours for the P-3 deployment. The flight over Greenland's southeast glaciers was a bumpy one. With clear skies came winds of up to 70 knots, blowing rivers of snow over the mountains. The data could help scientists to evaluate the impact of wind-blown snow on satellite-based laser altimetry measurements.

    On April 9, the P-3 flew a short instrument calibration flight, which consisted of several pitch/roll/yaw maneuvers.

    The flight on April 8 was a mop up flight combining targets from three missions. The P-3 surveyed a small ice cap, Sukkertoppen Isflade. Next the mission headed south and surveyed glaciers in southwest Greenland before heading back north to fly the center line of Jakobshavn glacier. Half of the Illulisat Isfjord was open water with several fishing boats.

    On April 7, IceBridge flew along the west coast of Greenland, crossing several glaciers multiple times. All of the instruments functioned as expected, having encountered only a few minutes of clouds during the entire flight.


    Arctic Sea Ice Flights Near Completion

    Arctic sea ice as viewed from the P-3 window. › View larger
    Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean was visible from a window on the P-3 during a science flight on March 23, 2011, that flew north of Fairbanks, Alaska. Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel
    Kangerlussuaq, Greenland – Operation IceBridge, NASA's airborne mission to monitor polar ice, is amid its fourth week of flights for the Arctic 2011 campaign. Researchers and crew successfully completed flights from Thule, Greenland, to monitor sea ice and have now moved to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to focus on flights monitoring the ice sheet. Flying a distance of about 19,000 miles [30,000 kilometers] over the Arctic Ocean, scientists onboard the P-3 collected data during eight sea ice flights based from Thule Air Base. One additional sea ice flight remains to be flown from Kangerlussuaq.

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    Overcoming Arctic Chill, IceBridge Overflies Fastest-Moving Glacier

    The calving front of Greenland's fastest-moving major glacier, Jakobshavn. › View larger
    The calving front of the Jakobshavn glacier was captured by a digital SLR camera looking down through a window in the belly of the aircraft. Credit: NASA/DMS team
    On April 6, 2011, the P-3 took off for a flight over Jakobshavn -- Greenland's fastest-moving major glacier. The mission resurveyed high priority lines of the historical grid collected by the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) instrument prior to IceBridge, and also flown during the 2009 and 2010 IceBridge campaigns. This year, flight lines were extended to cover the glacier's expanded catchment area.

    The flight over Jakobshavn, however, required that IceBridge overcome challenging Arctic conditions. At 6 a.m on April 5, the temperature was -11.2 F. The cold conditions led to a mechanical issue on the aircraft shortly into the science flight, forcing an early return to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. The P-3's adept aircrew was quick to diagnose and resolve the issue. The following morning, additional heating for a longer period prior to flight led to a successful first flight from Kangerlussuaq.


    P-3 Back in Kanger

    After a prop valve repair in Wallops, the P-3 returns to Kangerlussuag, Greenland with Lora Koenig joining the field. › View larger
    The P-3's flight back from Wallops also brought Lora Koenig (above right) into the field. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen
    On April 4, crew flew the P-3 from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., back to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, after the speedy repair of a prop valve. The flight also brought Lora Koenig, IceBridge's deputy project scientist, into the field.

    A down day on April 3 allowed the ATM instrument team to spend more than five hours conducting a ramp survey. Scientists drove a truck with a GPS antenna affixed to the roof to map the precise elevation of the airport's entire ramp -- the pavement next to the runway where the aircraft is stored. The ramp map helps researchers calibrate science instruments on the aircraft.

    Read about the ramp survey here:


    Bye to Thule, For Now

    Deep canyons and glaciers along the northwest coast of Greenland › View larger
    Credit: NASA/Michael Studinger
    On March 31, the P-3 departed Thule, Greenland. IceBridge teams flew a science transit flight to Kangerlussaq, Greenland, where missions will be based for the next several weeks before returning to Thule. Along the route, instruments surveyed several targets of opportunity including two ground tracks of the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and several glaciers (Rink, Kangerdlugssuaq, Jakobshavn and Russell), turning up great data and spectacular views.

    March 29 was another perfect day for a land ice flight. The P-3 flew between deep canyons and over glaciers along the northwest coast of Greenland (right).

    But before the start of land ice flights, IceBridge reached a key milestone over sea ice. On March 28, IceBridge flew its eighth sea ice flight marking the completion of all high- and medium-priority sea ice missions planned from Thule. Among the sea ice missions was a science transit back from Fairbanks to Thule on March 25, during which the P-3 surveyed in complete darkness. Researchers watched the scanning pattern of the green lasers on the sea ice below and the beautiful Aurora Borealis above.


    Arctic Ice Gets a Check Up

    Arctic Sea Ice Animation: September 2010 to March 2011 Credit: NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio
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    Scientists tracking the annual maximum extent of Arctic sea ice said that 2011 was among the lowest ice extents measured since satellites began collecting the data in 1979. Using satellites to track Arctic ice and comparing it with data from previous years is one way that scientists track change in the Arctic system.

    "For the first 20 years of the satellite record, the average annual maximum was basically uniform," said Joey Comiso of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., who studies the sea ice data collected by the AMSR-E microwave sensor on NASA's Aqua satellite. "Then, we see an abrupt decline."

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    After the Storm

    On March 22, the IceBridge team awoke to clear skies and rolled out the P-3 onto a freshly snowplowed runway. › View larger
    Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel
    After two required down days, the P-3 and IceBridge teams remained indoors on March 21 to wait out a storm in Thule, Greenland. On March 22, they awoke to clear skies and rolled out the P-3 (right) onto a freshly snowplowed runway. After a successful flight across the Arctic basin over many types of sea ice, the P-3 landed in Fairbanks, Alaska – the mission’s base for the following few days.

    On March 23, crew in Fairbanks warmed up the P-3 for a flight over ICEX, a U.S. Navy camp on sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska. Data from the flight are expected to give scientists the data to evaluate and improve remote sensing measurements of sea ice thickness and snow depth.

    › Read more on our blog


    Science Flights Under Way

    The campaign’s second flight, on March 17, flew between north of Alert and the border of Russian airspace. › View larger
    Credit: NASA/Jim Yungel
    On March 18, the P-3 took off for its third science flight since the mission’s start earlier this week. The flight’s goals included sampling the thick multi-year ice north of Ellesmere Island, and the gradient to thinner ice toward the pole.

    The campaign’s second flight (right), on March 17, flew between north of Alert and the border of Russian airspace. The aircraft collected measurements as the European Space Agency’s (ESA) ice-observing satellite, CryoSat-2, passed overhead. Instrument teams reported collecting good data despite some areas of haze and clouds.

    On March 16, instrument teams and crew flew the campaign’s first science flight. Instruments sampled sea ice from low (1,500 feet) to high (17,500 feet) altitudes, and along ground tracks of ESA’s Earth-observing Envisat satellite.


    Wheels Up for Extensive Survey of Arctic Ice

    On March 14, 2011, NASA's Operation IceBridge scientists and crew arrived in Greenland where they will begin the Arctic 2011 phase of the mission. Credit: Jefferson Beck/NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
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    Researchers and flight crew arrived in Thule, Greenland, on Monday, March 14, for the start of NASA's 2011 Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to study changes in Arctic polar ice. This year's plans include surveys of Canadian ice caps and expanded international collaboration.

    The state of Earth's polar ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice is an important indicator of climate change and plays a key role in regulating global climate. With IceBridge, NASA is pushing ahead with its commitment to keep an eye on changes to polar ice to better understand the effects of climate change.

    Since 2009, Operation IceBridge has flown annual campaigns over the Arctic starting in March and over Antarctica starting in October. The mission extends the multi-year record of ice elevation measurements made by NASA's Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and the upcoming ICESat-2, scheduled for launch in 2016.

    "Each successive IceBridge campaign has broadened in scope," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger of Goddard Earth Sciences and Technology Center at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "This year, we have more flight hours and flight plans than ever before. We are looking forward to a busy, fruitful campaign."

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    Test Flights Take Off

    Over the last several weeks, NASA’s P-3B aircraft was loaded with instruments designed to make remote sensing measurements over polar land ice and sea ice. › View larger
    Over the last several weeks, NASA’s P-3B aircraft was loaded with instruments designed to make remote sensing measurements over polar land ice and sea ice. Credit: NASA/Patrick Black
    On March 9, IceBridge teams flew a successful pre-departure test mission from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va. Engineers tested and calibrated many of the instruments installed on the P-3B including the magnetometer, gravimeter, Airborne Topographic Mapper, and camera systems. Real-time indications on board suggest that good data were collected during the mission, and teams will conduct further post-mission analysis.

    Another test mission is scheduled for March 10, when the P-3B will fly offshore to test the radar instruments.


    Gearing Up for Arctic Science Flights

    The P-3B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., evidence that the Operation IceBridge mission is gearing up for its annual Arctic campaign. › View larger
    Credit:NASA/Patrick Black
    Tool carts arranged around the P-3B at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., are evidence that the Operation IceBridge mission is gearing up for its annual Arctic campaign. The mission's third year of science flights over Arctic sea ice and land ice begins next month, which means busy weeks ahead for the engineers uploading the instruments to the flying science laboratory.

    Visit the IceBridge mission page and blog for updates throughout the campaign, and follow @NASA_ICE for mission tweets.


Arctic 2011 Campaign

    Greenland 2011
    March - May

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