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NASA Releases Results of Expanded Annual Arctic Ice Survey IceBridge

May 22, 2017 10:30 AM EDT
Older Arctic Sea Ice Disappearing
NASA just finished its expanded annual Arctic ice survey. The mission IceBridge completed 39 flights and explored the Eurasian side of the Arctic ice for the first time.
(Photo : NASA Goddard Spaceflight Center/YouTube Screenshot)

NASA expanded its annual Arctic Ice survey in order to collect more data on a larger scale. The annual survey results were released recently after the series of mission flights ended on May 12.

The expanded annual Arctic ice survey is considered as the most ambitious spring campaign in the region for NASA's Operation IceBridge. IceBridge is an airborne mission that monitors and tracks ice changes at the Earth's poles. The mission requires the rapid-response flight over the newly discovered crack in Petermann Glacier, also known as the fastest-changing glaciers in Greenland.

In order to come up with the result for the expanded annual Arctic ice survey, the mission completed 39 research flights in 10 weeks. Three of which were directed at the remote islands in Svalbard, Norway.

"This has easily been our best year ever for surveying sea ice," Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge's project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland said in a press release. "Geographically, we covered a wider area than ever before, and the new instruments we deployed during this campaign have given us denser and more accurate measurements."

In the expanded annual Arctic ice survey, the Eurasian half of the Arctic Basin was explored through research flights. The new crack on Petermann Glacier was closely observed via this mission.

Out of all the flights, 13 were focused on surveying sea ice while the rest were focused on land ice. In order to perform a more inclusive survey, NASA's IceBridge collaborated with other institutions like the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat) and CryoVEx by ESA's CryoSat-2 satellite.

One of the most important data collected by the expanded annual Arctic ice survey is that the layer of snow on sea ice in the Eurasian side of the Arctic is thinner than what snow depth climatology models predicted.

"The new snow measurements will help better understand changes in the Arctic sea ice cover and help constrain satellite measurements to make sure they're accurate," Kurtz added.

Crack on Petermann Glaciers

The observation of the crack on Petermann glaciers was made possible due to international cooperation when the mission scientists were notified about the changes during the mission itself.

The new rift is currently a focus of other research since it is intriguing for scientists. Experts say it could create a new iceberg after it finishes tearing through the ice.

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