Photo Friday: NASA’s Operation IceBridge

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center’s ongoing operation called IceBridge uses manned aircraft to study polar ice. IceBridge serves to bridge the gap between NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which stopped collecting data in 2009, and NASA’s second generation of the satellite (ICESat-2) which is scheduled to launch later this year.

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NASA P-3 Orion aircraft (Source: NASA)

The six year operation is the largest airborne survey of  Earth’s polar ice, and collects data about ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice in Greenland and the Antarctic. The goal is to document annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets along with collecting information to help with the modeling the effect of climate change on Earth’s polar ice, specifically in connection to possible sea-level rise.

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View from a NOAA P-3 aircraft showing the calving front of Sermeq Kujatdleq glacier (Source: NASA/John Sonntag)

IceBridge Airplanes fly over Greenland between March and May and in  over Antarctica between October and November. Smaller airplane surveys of ice around the world are also included in the IceBridge operation.

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Image of P-3 aircraft with data collection instruments labeled (Source: NASA)


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Image of P-3 aircraft with data collection instruments labeled Heimdal Glacier in southern Greenland, in an image captured on Oct. 13, 2015, from NASA Langley Research Center’s Falcon 20 aircraft flying 33,000 feet above mean sea level. (Source: NASA/John Sonntag)


Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Fjord with Kap Atholl in the background, taken April 2013. (Source: NASA / Michael Studinger)