NASA Conducting Extensive Arctic Polar Ice Survey
On March 14th teams of researchers and flight crews landed in Thule, Greenland to begin the 2011 Operation IceBridge led by NASA. This mission will take place in the air so scientists can gather data to help them study changes in the polar ice of the Arctic. This year’s operation will feature greater international collaboration and surveys of the Canadian ice regions.
Arctic region ice caps, sheets and glaciers are a clear indicator of overall climate change and play a large role in balancing the global climate. The IceBridge mission helps NASA stick to their commitment to track polar ice changes and spot possible trends in global climate change. These airborne missions have been flown twice a year since 2009. The Arctic is covered in March, then the teams survey Antarctica in October. Before 2009 the Ice Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite produced accurate ice measurements, and an updated version of the satellite will be launched in 2016.
This year’s mission will include longer flight hours and more flight plans than previous IceBridge campaigns. The first flight will leave within the week if weather conditions remain favorable. The mission will last nearly 10 weeks. Scientists from across the world will use a variety of airborne measurement devices to collect ice data high above the Arctic ice. One crucial flight includes an overnight trip to Alaska. Sea ice measurements will be taken across the Arctic Ocean there. Sea ice has been the quickest polar ice to melt in the past few years.
Despite the smaller size of the Canadian ice caps, they will still create a large amount of sea level disturbance if they continue to melt over the next few years. Canadian ice is also more sensitive to small shifts in temperature and water currents, showing changes faster than other ice beds.