On October 16, 2014 scientists from NASA’s Operation IceBridge began the sixth consecutive year of research overflights of Antarctica. Using the city of Punta Arenas as a base, Operation IceBridge aims to perform measurements and observations of the changes in the continent’s ice sheet, glaciers and seat ice. The campaign will run through late November.
Operation IceBridge flights allow a wide variety of instruments to perform remote measurements on the surface of ice in the Antarctic and in some areas of the ocean. The DC-8 is carrying a series of instruments that include a laser altimeter, radar instruments, cameras, and a gravimeter – an instrument that detects small changes in gravity. These small changes reveal how much mass lost the glaciers have lost. Repeated annual measurements of key glaciers are used to maintain a long-term record of change in the Antarctic that goes back to NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) which stopped collecting data in 2009.
IceBridge researchers also plan to measure previously unsurveyed regions of Antarctica. One example is to look at the upper portions of Smith Glacier in West Antarctica, which is thinning more quickly than other glaciers in the region. The mission will also collect information in parts of the Antarctic Peninsula, such as the Larsen C, George VI and Wilkins ice shelves and the glaciers that drain into them. The Antarctic Peninsula has been warming faster than the rest of the continent.
The IceBridge overflights depart from Punta Arenas and fly over the Southern Ocean to reach destinations such as Western Antarctica, the Antarctic Peninsula and coastal areas. Each flight lasts more than 11 hours.
For more information, see http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/icebridge/index.html
Dra. Ellen Stofan (PhD)
Dr. Ellen Stofan was appointed NASA Chief Scientist on August 25, 2013, serving as principal advisor to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden on the agency’s science programs and science-related strategic planning and investments. Her appointment as chief scientist marks a return to NASA for Dr. Stofan. From 1991 through 2000, she held a number of senior scientist positions at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, including chief scientist for NASA’s New Millennium Program, deputy project scientist for the Magellan Mission to Venus, and experiment scientist for SIR-C, an instrument that provided radar images of Earth on two Space Shuttle flights in 1994.
Dr. Stofan holds Master and Doctorate degrees in Geological Sciences from Brown University in Providence, R.I., and a Bachelor’s degree from the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.