This summer, with sea ice across the Arctic Ocean shrinking to below-average levels, a NASA airborne survey of polar ice just completed its first flights. Its target: aquamarine pools of melt water on the ice surface that may be accelerating the overall sea ice retreat.
NASA's Operation IceBridge completed the first research flight of its new 2016 Arctic summer campaign on July 13. The science flights, which continue through July 25, are collecting data on sea ice in a year following a record-warm winter in the Arctic.
A large pool of melt water over sea ice, as seen from an Operation IceBridge flight over the Beaufort Sea on July 14, 2016. During this summer campaign, IceBridge will map the extent, frequency and depth of melt ponds like these to help scientists forecast the Arctic sea ice yearly minimum extent in September.
Credit: NASA/Operation IceBridge
The summer flights will map the extent, frequency and depth of melt ponds, the pools of melt water that form on sea ice during spring and summer. Recent studies have found that the formation of melt ponds early in the summer is a good predictor of the sea ice yearly minimum extent in September: if there are more ponds on the ice earlier in the melt season, they reduce the ability of sea ice to reflect solar radiation, which leads to more melt.
"Although there have been previous airborne campaigns in the Arctic, no one has ever mapped the large-scale depth of melt ponds on sea ice using remote sensing data," said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge's project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "The information we'll collect is going to show how much water is retained in melt ponds and what kind of topography is needed on the sea ice to constrain them, which will help improve melt pond models."
This short flight campaign is operating from Barrow, Alaska. The flights are low at an altitude of 1500 feet (450 meters) aboard an HU-25C Guardian Falcon aircraft from NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. The plane carries three instruments that measure changes in the ice elevation and surface temperatures and create color maps of sea ice.
Operation IceBridge provides connectivity between the measurements of polar ice between two NASA satellite campaigns: the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, which operated from 2003 to 2009, and its successor, ICESat-2, scheduled to launch by 2018. The Barrow campaign will give a glimpse into what ICESat-2 will be able to observe in the Arctic in the summertime, since the laser altimeter IceBridge carries is similar to the one that will be aboard ICESat-2.
Kurtz expects that flying in the summer will allow his team to find areas of sea ice not covered by snow, which will let them take direct measurements of the freeboard, the fraction of sea ice that floats above the waterline. This measurement would improve studies of sea ice thickness in the Arctic.
Flights will be shorter than the usual IceBridge Arctic flights, due to the Falcon's smaller fuel capacity compared to the P-3 aircraft that IceBridge normally uses in the Arctic. In total, IceBridge scientists are expecting to carry out five 4-hour-long flights, each one covering 1000 nautical miles (1150 miles) and focusing on the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Russia, Alaska and Canada..
"The advantage of being based in Barrow is that we'll be starting the flights right from the water's edge," Kurtz said.
For its annual Arctic and Antarctic campaigns, IceBridge flights follow pre-established lines selected by the scientific community. But in Barrow, due to weather uncertainty, the mission will pursue targets of opportunity.
"The day before the flight we'll be looking at weather imagery and models, and I'll try to plan a flight line that basically gets into any hole in the clouds there is, rather than following a specific path," Kurtz said.
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia provided the laser altimeter and the infrared camera that are being used during this summer campaign. IceBridge's Digital Mapping System came from NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California.
For more about Operation IceBridge and to follow the summer Arctic campaign, visit: http://www.
Maria-Jose Vinas | EurekAlert!
NASA looks to solar eclipse to help understand Earth's energy system
21.07.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Scientists shed light on carbon's descent into the deep Earth
19.07.2017 | European Synchrotron Radiation Facility
Physicists have developed a new technique that uses electrical voltages to control the electron spin on a chip. The newly-developed method provides protection from spin decay, meaning that the contained information can be maintained and transmitted over comparatively large distances, as has been demonstrated by a team from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics and the Swiss Nanoscience Institute. The results have been published in Physical Review X.
For several years, researchers have been trying to use the spin of an electron to store and transmit information. The spin of each electron is always coupled...
What is the mass of a proton? Scientists from Germany and Japan successfully did an important step towards the most exact knowledge of this fundamental constant. By means of precision measurements on a single proton, they could improve the precision by a factor of three and also correct the existing value.
To determine the mass of a single proton still more accurate – a group of physicists led by Klaus Blaum and Sven Sturm of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear...
The research team of Prof. Dr. Oliver Einsle at the University of Freiburg's Institute of Biochemistry has long been exploring the functioning of nitrogenase....
A one trillion tonne iceberg - one of the biggest ever recorded -- has calved away from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in Antarctica, after a rift in the ice,...
Physics supports biology: Researchers from PTB have developed a model system to investigate friction phenomena with atomic precision
Friction: what you want from car brakes, otherwise rather a nuisance. In any case, it is useful to know as precisely as possible how friction phenomena arise –...
21.07.2017 | Event News
19.07.2017 | Event News
12.07.2017 | Event News
21.07.2017 | Earth Sciences
21.07.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
21.07.2017 | Physics and Astronomy