For the past eight years, Operation IceBridge, a NASA mission that conducts aerial surveys of polar ice, has produced unprecedented three-dimensional views of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, providing scientists with valuable data on how polar ice is changing in a warming world. Now, for the first time, the campaign will expand its reach to explore the Arctic’s Eurasian Basin through two research flights based out of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the northern Atlantic Ocean.
The mission is surveying the region as part of its 2017 Arctic spring campaign, which completed its first flight on March 9 and will continue until May 12.
“This is IceBridge’s ninth year in the Arctic and we’re expecting this to be one of our most extensive campaigns to date,” said Nathan Kurtz, Operation IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “We are expanding our reach to the Eurasian sector of the Arctic, so we’re hopefully going to get more sea ice coverage than we ever have.”
Traditionally, IceBridge’s Arctic campaigns operate from three bases: Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland, Fairbanks in Alaska, and Kangerlussuaq in southwest Greenland. The addition of Svalbard will allow the mission to collect data on sea ice and snow in a scarcely measured section of the Arctic Ocean and its surrounding seas, along with measurements of a few glaciers in the Svalbard archipelago. Researchers think that the sea ice characteristics in the Eurasian side of the Arctic might be different from those of its Amerasian counterpart. In particular, they suspect that they may see a thicker snow cover on the Eurasian sea ice, but they will not be able to confirm it until IceBridge flies over.
(Credit: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)