NASA survey of Antarctic ice launches from Hobart

By on 30 October, 2019

NASA’s Gulfstream V at Hobart Airport for Operation IceBridge. Photo: Mark Horstman.

NASA’s Operation Icebridge mission has launched from Hobart, kicking off the Australian Antarctic Program’s research season.

Operation Icebridge will combine survey data from aircraft, satellites and terrestrial teams to create the largest survey of the Earth’s changing ice ever undertaken, according to the Australian Antarctic Division.

The primary vehicle for this phase of the research will be a Gulfstream V aircraft, packed with sensors and instrumentation including two laser altimeters accurate to under 5cm, optical cameras, a gravimeter and radar sounders.

Dr. Linette Boisvert, Deputy Project Scientist for Operation IceBridge, said that the aim of the research is to collect the data needed to improve projections of future sea level change caused by a changing climate and making more accurate forecasts of annual sea ice extent.

Sensors and instrumentation inside the Gulfstream V to be used in Operation Icebridge. Photo: Mark Horstman.

Australian Antarctic Division sea ice physicist Dr. Petra Heil is coordinating a ground team including two NASA scientists, to be based at Casey research station, Australia’s research base in the Antarctic that celebrated 50 years of operation this year.

The team will move along the same path as the aircraft and NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite to ground truth data collected from the air and space by collecting ice cores and measuring snow cover.

“With NASA’s Operation IceBridge flying for more than a month and our ground team on the ice at the same time, in terms of fieldwork this is the biggest coup we’ve had in our research for a while,” said Dr Heil.

Around 550 expeditioners will travel south as part of the broader Australian Antarctic Program in 2019/20, composed of Australian and international scientists.

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