NASA has completed its so-called Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice. The mission was actually two overlapping campaigns at both ends of the Earth.
In the south the mission recorded a big drop in the height of two glaciers situated in the Antarctic Peninsula.
In the north it collected much needed measurements of the status of land and sea ice at the end of the Arctic summer melt season.
The mission has flown every year for seven years but usually it carries out separate flights to the Arctic in the spring and to Antarctica in the autumn.
This was the first time with parallel flights in the Arctic and Antarctic
“The main focus of the IceBridge North campaign was to get direct measurements of how much snow and ice has disappeared over the summer,” said John Sonntag, IceBridge mission scientist.
“The way you get a direct measurement of this is by surveying the elevation along some flight lines in the spring, doing it again in the early fall, and then comparing the data.”
In total, the southern campaign completed 16 research flights totaling 172 hours. IceBridge South achieved extensive areal coverage from Marie Byrd Land to the Antarctic Peninsula, including the fast-changing Pine Island and Thwaites areas as well as the Bellingshausen and Weddell Seas.
In all, the mission in the south surveyed more than 150,000 square kilometres of land and sea ice.
Bill Condie is a science journalist based in Adelaide, Australia.
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