Cryospheric Research Roundup

April 2016

IceBridge Begins Eighth Year of Arctic Flights

Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice, completed its first Greenland research flight of 2016 on April 19, kicking off its eighth spring Arctic campaign. This year’s science flights over Arctic sea and land ice will continue until May 21. The first leg of the mission will be based out of Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland and out of Fairbanks, Alaska. Ten high-priority sea ice flights and three land flights are planned from these two sites. The second part of the Arctic campaign will be based in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland and will focus on gauging surface elevation changes in land ice. As in previous years, Operation IceBridge will cooperate with several international research initiatives, including projects from from Environment and Climate Change Canada and the European Space Agency. 
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March 2016

 2016 Arctic Sea Ice Wintertime Extent Hits Another Record Low

Arctic sea ice reached a record low wintertime maximum extent for the second year in a row. On March 24, Arctic sea ice extent peaked at 14.52 million square kilometers, a new record low winter maximum extent in the satellite record that started in 1979. It is slightly smaller than the previous record low maximum extent of 14.54 million square kilometers that occurred last year. The 13 smallest maximum extents on the satellite record have happened in the last 13 years
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February 2016

Two New Lab Members

Joe MacGregor joined NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory as a research physical scientist. Joe is a glaciologist and geophysicist with a Ph.D. from University of Washington, who studies the past and present flow of modern ice sheets and the controls on their dynamics. In particular, he seeks to understand why ice sheets flow more quickly in some areas than in others, how their flow evolves over time and how we can better observe the properties that control ice-sheet flow. These are critical concerns for Earth’s two remaining ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica. Together with a diverse set of collaborators, Joe synthesizes results from a variety of methods, including radar sounding (from NASA's Operation IceBridge, among other sources), satellite remote sensing (Landsat, MODIS, InSAR), ground-based surveys (ice-core chemistry, borehole thermometry) and laboratory measurements (dielectric spectroscopy) to better understand ice sheets as systems.

Lauren Andrews joined the laboratory in February as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. Lauren completed her Ph.D. at the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics, where her work focused on using field observations to explore how the evolution in space and time of the subglacial hydrologic system can alter the seasonal pattern of ice motion in the ablation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Here at Goddard, Lauren will continue her work on the dynamic interaction between water and ice on the Greenland Ice Sheet using both GPS and satellite data to examine how the state of the subglacial hydrologic system impacts non-local ice dynamics and characterize the extent to which the annual pattern of ice motion impacts ice sheet mass loss.  

 Getting Ready for IceBridge's Arctic Campaign

Preparations for Operation IceBridge’s spring Arctic 2016 campaign have begun. For this field campaign, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is providing one of its P-3 research aircraft, often used to study hurricanes, as well as a full flight crew. In the photo, engineers from NASA and from NOAA’s Aircraft Operations Center integrate instruments into NOAA’s P-3 in MacDill Airfare Base (Tampa, Fl.) The nose radome of the aircraft is in the up position for installation of IceBridge instruments.


 Lab Researcher Joe MacGregor Publishes in Science

New laboratory member Joe MacGregor is the lead author of a paper published in the journal Science on February 5. In the study, MacGregor and his team created a map that shows that the Greenland Ice Sheet’s interior is moving more slowly toward the edges than it has during the past 9,000 years, due to changes in snowfall, a hardening of the ice sheet over time and the collapse an “ice bridge” across Nares Strait that led to an initial speed up of the ice sheet that has since slowed down. For the study, MacGregor and his colleagues analyzed the internal structure of the Greenland Ice Sheet using ice cores and radar measurements, including radar data collected by NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission.

January 2016

 New Lab Member

Kristin Poinar started working at the laboratory as a postdoctoral fellow after obtaining her Ph.D. at University of Washington. She examines how the shear margins affect the flow of Jakobshavn Isbrae, a large glacier in western Greenland. Shear margins are areas of ice that become heavily crevassed and broken up due to the fast motion of the glacier. Because the glacier has been moving faster in recent years, scientists think that the shear margins have become even more broken up and weakened, which would allow the glacier to move even faster. Kristin is using a combination of ice-sheet models and elevation and radar data from Operation IceBridge to investigate changes in the shear margins and how much they control the motion of the Jakobshavn Glacier, which is one of the wildcards in Greenland’s future contribution to global sea level.

Read more research news in our Research Roundup Archives.

Cryospheric Sciences at NASA Goddard

Cryospheric research at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center addresses the physics of ice sheets and glaciers, sea ice, snow on ice and land, and their roles in the global climate system.

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