NASA Prepares to Study Arctic Glaciers

WASHINGTON, March 18 (UPI) — NASA says it is preparing for the start of the second year of the largest airborne survey ever flown of Earth’s polar ice — Operation IceBridge.

The space agency says the project’s second year will begin Monday when NASA aircraft arrive in Greenland.

Scientists said the IceBridge mission allows them to track changes in the extent and thickness of polar ice, which is important for understanding ice dynamics. IceBridge began in March 2009 as a means to fill the gap in polar observations between the loss of NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, ICESat, and the launch of ICESat-2, planned for 2015.

The annual missions fly over the arctic during March and April and over Antarctica during October and November.

In preparation for the approximately 200 science flight hours during the spring campaign, the space agency says engineers have been outfitting NASA’s DC-8 aircraft with an array of science instruments. The mission’s first priority is to survey arctic sea ice, which reaches its maximum extent each year in March or early April. High- and low-altitude flights also will survey Greenland’s ice sheet and outlet glaciers.

In mid-April the engineers will transfer the science instruments to NASA’s smaller, more maneuverable P-3B aircraft and then spend May making another 10 to 12 science flights from Kangerlussuaq and Thule, Greenland.

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