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IceBridge Surveys More of West Antarctica

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Posted November 17, 2014

IceBridge researchers continued their Antarctic work with a run of four flights in a row that targeted different science sites in western Antarctica.

On Nov. 5, the IceBridge team carried out a survey of the Ferrigno and Alison ice streams and the Abbot Ice Shelf and ice along the Eights Coast. Weather forecasts showed clear conditions in West Antarctica, which typically only last for a few days. Less certain was how cloud cover would look in the Bellingshausen Sea, home of one of the mission’s highest priority flights. That uncertainty is what led mission planners to the decision they made.

A view of Mount Murphy in Antarctica's Marie Byrd Land seen on the Nov. 7, 2014, IceBridge survey flight. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger

A view of Mount Murphy in Antarctica’s Marie Byrd Land seen on the Nov. 7, 2014, IceBridge survey flight. Credit: NASA / Michael Studinger

The Nov. 5 survey was a new design that incorporated elements of two previously flown missions. The Ferrigno and Alison ice stream portion of the flight followed coast-parallel lines last surveyed in 2012. After completing those back and forth lines, the team headed on to the Abbott Ice Shelf, measuring a region last surveyed during IceBridge’s first campaign in 2009.

The next morning, Nov. 6, mission planners returned to the Punta Arenas weather office to find that things still looked good in the Pine Island Glacier region. With a good forecast in hand, the team took off for a survey to collect data on tributaries feeding into the main trunk of Pine Island Glacier. This repeat of a survey last flown in 2010 was designed to measure changes to the ice surface beyond IceBridge’s other Pine Island Glacier missions.

On Nov. 7, favorable weather conditions were still holding in West Antarctica, so the IceBridge team headed out for a survey of the Thwaites, Smith and Kohler glaciers. This flight repeated parts of a survey flown in 2012 and primarily measured ice elevation in this rapidly-changing part of West Antarctica. In addition, researchers were able to collect high altitude sea ice elevation data with the onboard laser altimeters on the way to and from the survey area.

On Nov. 8, weather conditions cleared over one of IceBridge’s other high priority areas, the Slessor Glacier and Bailey Ice Stream. On this mission, researchers measured ice elevation changes and mapped bedrock and subglacial lakes beneath the ice. IceBridge also collected data over an old ice core drill site.

With the Nov. 8 flight, IceBridge has completed 14 science flights over Antarctica and researchers look ahead to carrying out more surveys before the end of the deployment in late November.

Source: NASA

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