Photo Friday: Alaska’s Sheridan Glacier––via Operation IceBridge

This Photo Friday features Sheridan Glacier in southeastern Alaska, a lake-calving glacier with a rapidly disintegrating floating tongue. Alaskan glaciers are melting faster and contributing more to sea level rise than any other region in the world, according to a recent study. In April, NASA’s Operation IceBridge released the remarkable image below and described the mission and its relevance:

“In Alaska, 5 percent of the land is covered by glaciers that are losing a lot of ice and contributing to sea level rise. To monitor these changes, a small team of NASA-funded researchers has been flying scientific instruments on a bright red, single-engine plane since spring 2009.”

Sheridan Glacier, near Cordova, Alaska, is seen from an Operation IceBridge flight in August 2018 (Source: Martin Truffer/USAF/ via NASA).

Operation IceBridge is a temporary mission to collect critical data for predicting the response of the Earth’s polar ice to climate change and sea-level rise. NASA assembled the operation after an ice monitoring satellite, NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), malfunctioned in 2009, bridging the gap until the successor satellite, ICESat-2, could be launched in 2018. According to NASA, while scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center managed the two larger yearly field campaigns in the Arctic and Antarctica, monitoring Alaskan glaciers fell on a smaller team based at the University of Fairbanks, Alaska.”

This photograph from Operation IceBridge was taken on Aug. 29, 2017, from 28,000 feet, looking north while surveying Nioghalvfjerdsbrae (79 N) Glacier in northeast Greenland.

NASA said 2019 would be the final year of IceBridge flights, “the end of an era of airborne observations that has catalogued an Arctic that has experienced rapid change––from the rapid thinning of many Greenland ocean-terminating outlet glaciers to the continued decline of the Arctic sea ice pack in extent, snow cover and thickness.”

This photograph from a Sept. 11, 2016 flight captures Greenland’s Steenstrup Glacier, with the midmorning sun glinting off of the Denmark Strait in the background (Source: John Sonntag/NASA)

Joe MacGregor is IceBridge’s project scientist and a glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “In terms of monitoring Arctic ice, IceBridge and its predecessor NASA airborne campaigns have produced a remarkable legacy that stretches back to 1993––more than a quarter century––beginning and continuing with the Airborne Topographic Mapper laser altimeter,” MacGregor said. “With ICESat-2 now in orbit, collecting great data and hopefully lasting for many years, we can now map ongoing changes in polar ice in fine detail from space. That will allow NASA to refocus our airborne efforts on other types of measurements or other priority areas.”

Read More on GlacierHub:

Alaskan Glaciers Are Melting Twice as Fast as Models Predicted

Glaciers Account for More Sea Level Rise Than Previously Thought

Photo Friday: Finding Glaciers in Alaska

Roundup: 1,400 Year-old Toy Arrow, NASA’s Ice Satellite, and Svalbard Glaciers

Discovery of a 1,400 Year-old Toy Arrow in Norway

From Secrets of the Ice: The recovery of a small blunt arrow, radiocarbon-dated to Late Antique Little Ice Age, is a testimony to the importance of hunting during this period. Due to its small size, it is very likely to be a toy arrow. From a young age, children had to practice and master the art of bow-and-arrow. It was essential for survival, especially during harsh climatic conditions. The toy arrow was found in the glaciated mountain pass at Lendbreen in Breheimen National Park, southern Norway. The unlucky child probably lost it in the snow and thought it was gone forever. Not so, the ice preserved it for 1,400 years.

Read about this find and more glacier archaeology here.

The blunt toy arrow is just 26.5 cm long and was dated to 600 AD (Source: Secrets of the Ice/Twitter).


Counting on NASA’s ICESat-2

From NASA: NASA’s most advanced laser instrument of its kind launched into space earlier this fall. According to the agency, the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, provides critical observations of how ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice are changing, leading to insights into how those changes impact people where they live.

Read more about the ICESat-2 here.

Final checks are made prior to loading ICESat-2 (Source: USAF 30th Space Wing/Timothy Trenkle).


Glaciers on Svalbard Survived the Holocene Thermal Optimum

From Quaternary Science Reviews: “About 60% of Svalbard is covered by glaciers today, but many of these glaciers were much reduced in size or gone in the Early Holocene… Relative sea level has been rising during the last few millennia in the north and western parts of Spitsbergen, while land still emerges in the remaining part of Svalbard. Here we show that this sea level rise in the northwest is caused by the regrowth of glaciers in the Mid- to Late Holocene that slowed down, and even reversed, the post-glacial isostatic uplift and caused the crust to subside over large areas of Spitsbergen.”

Read more about the Svalbard glaciers here.

Burgerbukta Glacier, Svalbard (Source: Gary Bembridge/Creative Commons).

NASA’s IceBridge Project- More Than Just a Pretty Image

NASA’s IceBridge project looks at Earth’s polar regions in the largest ever collection of images taken from air.

Greenland’s Steenstrup Glacier
Greenland’s Steenstrup Glacier with the Denmark Straight in the background (Source: NASA’s IceBridge Project).

As NASA states, “These flights will provide a yearly, multi-instrument look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland and Antarctic ice.”

This image shows the calving of the Sermeq Kujatdleg glacier in Greenland
This image shows the calving of the Sermeq Kujatdleg glacier in Greenland (Source: NASA’s IceBridge Project).

fjord of Violin Glacier
Taken May 19th, 2016 of the fjord of Violin Glacier (Source: NASA’s IceBridge Project).

The speed of ice and glacial melt continues to surprise scientists. This project will provide a unique and informative three-dimensional view.

Currently information is being collected by regional observation and satellite data collected from NASA’s Ice, Cloud and Land Elevation Satellite (ICESat).  Being able to pair this data with the new three-dimensional images could lead to crucial advances in the field.

Sea Ice
Miles of sea ice (Source: NASA’s IceBridge Project).