July 2019


Dr. Denis Felikson (left in photo) was awarded the 2019 International Association of Cryospheric Sciences (IACS) Early Career Award on July 12, 2019, during the International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics (IUGG) General Assembly in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for his 2017 publication in Nature Geoscience entitled “Inland thinning of the Greenland ice sheet controlled by outlet glacier geometry”.
The publication can be read here.
Citation for the paper by the Selection Panel:
Denis Felikson and his co-authors show that the Péclet number, which is determined from high-resolution bedrock and surface topography data, can explain the competition between inland diffusion and advective resupply of ice in Greenland outlet glaciers with floating tongues. This provides a conceptually simple but powerful understanding of the disparate response of Greenland outlet glaciers to terminus perturbations. It also allows identification of the most vulnerable glaciers to climate forcing so that they can be targeted for further studies.

October 2018

ICESat-2’s Laser Fires for First Time

ATLAS, the laser instrument that launched into orbit on Sept. 15 aboard ICESat-2, fired for the first time Sept. 30. By the morning of Oct. 3, the satellite returned its first height measurements across the Antarctic ice sheet. The first photon cloud generated by ICESat-2 shows a stretch of elevation measurements from East Antarctica, passing close to the South Pole at a latitude of 88 degrees south, then continuing between Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. Next up for ICESat-2 is a suite of procedures to optimize the instrument.

Parkinson Inducted Into American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Senior Climate Scientist Claire Parkinson was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, in a ceremony held at Harvard University’s Sanders Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts on October 6. 
“It is both a wonderful honor and a wonderful opportunity to be elected into the American Academy, which was founded by John Adams and others in 1780, during the American Revolution, with the purpose of cultivating ‘every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity, and happiness of a free, independent, and virtuous people’,” Parkinson said. “The Academy undertakes many important studies on a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, one this year being on Science and the Legal System.”
In addition to the induction itself, the three-day Induction Weekend included briefings on the work of the Academy, a celebration of the arts and humanities, and an extended talk-show-style interview with newly inducted member Sonia Sotomayor, who provided insights into her life and various aspects of being a Supreme Court justice.

September 2018

 ICESat-2 Successfully Launches to Track Earth's Changing Ice

NASA’s ICESat-2 spacecraft successfully launched on the final flight of the United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, lifting off from Space Launch Complex-2 at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base at 6:02 a.m. PDT (9:02 a.m. EDT) on September 15, 2018. Using its only onboard instrument, the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS), ICESat-2 will document changes in the Earth’s polar ice and improve forecasts of sea level rise.

August 2018

New Faces In The Lab

The Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory saw its ranks expand in August 2018, with three young researchers joining the lab to work on topics ranging from melt ponds to models of ice flow. 

R. Tri Datta, a post-doctoral associate, will collaborate with Brooke Medley to quantify melt pond depth and blue ice occurrence in polar regions. Tri comes from the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department at the City University of New York, where her research focused on foehn wind-induced surface melt over the Larsen C ice shelf using the regional climate model MAR (Modele Atmospherique Regional) as well as  satellite and in situ data. At Goddard, she will be working primarily with laser altimetry data from ICESat-2.
Catherine Walker will work with Tom Neumann on ICESat-2 altimetry and ice sheet science. Prior to joining the lab as a visiting assistant research scientist, Catherine was at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA in the Sea Level and Ice group, where she worked on interdisciplinary Antarctic and planetary science projects. Previously, she was a postdoc at Georgia Institute of Technology, after graduating with her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Her research focuses mainly on ice shelf rifting and ice-ocean interactions around the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets using laser altimetry and other remote sensing data, and on modeling planetary ice shells and their interaction with subsurface water in the Ocean Worlds of our solar system. She also has experience in the field, using AUV/ROVs to investigate the ice-ocean boundary beneath ice shelves and is interested in further developing such capabilities.
Denis Felikson joined the lab as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. Denis completed his PhD at the University of Texas at Austin, where he was co-supervised by Ginny Catania and Srinivas Bettadpur, on a project that determined how glacier geometry can set limits on thinning spreading from retreating glacier termini into the interior of the Greenland Ice Sheet. At Goddard, he will be working with Sophie Nowicki to determine the upper and lower bounds of the Greenland Ice Sheet’s contribution to sea-level rise over the coming century. To do this, Denis will use the Ice Sheet System Model, a numerical model of ice flow, to run thousands of simulations with different plausible configurations of the ice sheet. By comparing each simulation with satellite measurements of the ice sheet, Denis will determine the distribution of likely future sea-level rise.

July 2018

Summer Intern Working on Arctic Sea Ice Melt State

Nick Wright, a fourth year Ph.D. Candidate at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, is interning at the laboratory this summer. Nick studies the shortwave energy balance of the Arctic sea ice cover through a combination of optical remote sensing and field observations. He has developed a method to detect melt ponds and leads in high resolution optical imagery of sea ice and he is using these data to create improved melt pond fraction estimates derived from lower resolution sensors such as MODIS and VIIRS
While at NASA, Nick will be working with Melinda Webster to develop a new product that synthesizes a wide range of satellite remote sensing data sets to describe the current state of melt of the Arctic sea ice cover. 
“This product will help to improve our ability to model the Arctic sea ice cover and our understanding of powerful albedo feedbacks that influence the global climate system,” Nick said.

Undergraduate Summer Intern Aims to Improve Sea Ice Forecasts

Akira Sewnath, an undergraduate senior at the University of Florida, is working this summer with Alek Petty on improving sea ice predictions. Currently, Petty uses an open source linear regression model that validates the idea that using June sea ice concentrations in a simple statistical model can reliably predict the September sea ice extent. Akira is working to move to a more sophisticated statistical model to get better accuracy scores for the September ice extent prediction. She is also building a system that can handle month-to-month sea ice extent, ice area, and ice concentration spatial map predictions. The purpose of this system is to produce all kinds of predictions, as well as be easily retrained when new information is available on a month-to-month basis.

June 2018

Summer Intern Working On Mobile App

Emme Wiederhold, a rising junior undergraduate student at Washington University in St. Louis who is pursuing a degree in Computer Science with minors in Architecture and Design, will be interning at the lab this summer. Under the supervision of Valerie Casasanto, Wiederhold will be working on HoloGLOBE, a mobile application that combines different data sets to help users visualize and understand Earth from a new perspective: as a hologram. Emme is developing a HoloGLOBE module specific to the upcoming ICESat-2 mission.

“As the application is geared towards elementary school children and older, I am planning to integrate our ICESat-2 character, Pho the Photon, into the app to teach users about the mission in a fun new way,” Wiederhold says. She will also work on integrating some of ICESat-2’s elevation data into the app and she will participate in ICESat-2 outreach events.

March 2018

ICESat-2 at Awesome Con

Two members of the ICESat-2 community participated in the 2018 Awesome Con, the Washington, DC version of Comic Con. The conference includes a section referred to as Future Con, which explores the area where science and science fiction meet.

ICESat-2’s science writer, Kate Ramsayer, organized a NASA panel for Future Con/Awesome Con entitled “NASA Science at Earth’s Extremes”. The panelists included Jacob Richardson, who discussed lava flows in Hawaii and Iceland, Lola Fatoyinbo, who talked about mangrove studies in Gabon, and lab member Kelly Brunt, who discussed her recent trip to the South Pole in support of validation of ICESat-2. Overall, the panel discussion and the questions that followed were very well received by the audience, which included many participants dressed as their favorite comic-book heroes.

New Face In the Lab: Isabel Nias 

Isabel Nias joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory in March 2018 as a postdoctoral associate, working with Sophie Nowicki on a multidisciplinary sea level change project as part of the NASA Sea Level Change Team. Isabel comes from the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, where she completed her PhD in glaciology. There, her research involved modeling the ice streams of the Amundsen Sea Embayment in West Antarctica, with a particular focus on grounding line dynamics. At Goddard, Isabel will be using Ice Sheet System Model to constrain the committed sea level contribution from the Greenland Ice Sheet.


 2018 Arctic Sea Ice Maximum Is Second Lowest On Record

This year's Arctic sea ice annual maximum extent has joined 2015, 2016 and 2017 as the four lowest maximum extents on record, according to scientists at the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center and NASA.

On March 17, the Arctic sea ice cover peaked at 5.59 million square miles (14.48 million square kilometers), making it the second lowest maximum on record, at about 23,200 square miles (60,000 square kilometers) larger than the record low maximum reached on March 7, 2017.

December 2017

New Member of the Lab: Thomas Overly

Thomas Overly has joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory as a post-doctoral associate, working with Brooke Medley and Nathan Kurtz on a firn densification project. Overly comes from the Earth Sciences Department at Dartmouth College, where he used GPS, ground-penetrating radar, kite aerial photography, and CryoSat-2 data to examine surface elevation, snow accumulation, and surface roughness across the Greenland Ice Sheet. At Goddard, Thomas will use Operation IceBridge data to better understand radar interaction with the ice sheet surface.

September 2017

2017 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Extent Is Eighth Lowest on Record

Arctic sea ice appeared reached its yearly lowest extent on Sept. 13. Analysis of satellite data by NSIDC and NASA showed that at 1.79 million square miles, this year’s Arctic sea ice minimum extent is the eighth lowest in the consistent long-term satellite record, which began in 1978.

“The weather conditions in the Arctic have not been particularly noteworthy this summer," said Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory member Claire Parkinson. "The fact that we still ended up with low sea ice extents is because the baseline ice conditions today are worse than the baseline 38 years ago.” 

July 2017

 IceBridge Gauges Summer Sea Ice Melt in the Arctic 

Operation IceBridge launched a short campaign on July 17 from Thule Air Base, in northwest Greenland, to observe the impact of the melt season on the Arctic's oldest and thickest sea ice.
Onboard an HU-25C Guardian Falcon aircraft, the IceBridge team will survey melt ponds and re-fly a set of tracks to locate areas of sea ice that the mission already flew over in March and April, during IceBridge’s regular springtime campaign, to measure how the ice has melted since then.

June 2017

Medley Talks Lasers at Awesome Con

Brooke Medley participated  in "NASA's Space Lasers", a panel on the agency's latest laser technology  that was held on June 16 at Awesome Con, Washington D.C.’s annual comics and pop culture convention. Medley discussed the science behind ICESat-2 -- specifically, why NASA is studying the Earth’s ice sheets and how the scientific comunity will use ICESat-2’s lasers to improve their understanding of polar ice.  

"There were about 300 people in attendance, of all ages, genders, and ethnicities," Medley said. "The audience was very engaged and asked very insightful questions!" 

 New Summer Intern

Paul Lin is a rising college freshman majoring in Earth Science (Environmental Science Concentration) and International Relations at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Under mentor Ryan Walker at the NASA Goddard Center, Paul will be working with computer simulations on multiple ocean variables to collect and analyze data related to Antarctic melting.  From his time at NASA, Paul hopes to gain an understanding of modeling and researching about Earth's environmental processes and hopes to use his experiences to advance a career in international environmental law.

April 2017

Poinar Gives TED Talk

On Apr. 26, glaciologist Kristin Poinar spoke at a session of the popular TED Talks that focused on climate change. Poinar discussed her recent work on a perennial aquifer that lies buried within the Greenland Ice Sheet. Poinar’s numeric models have shown that the water from the aquifer is reaching the bedrock underneath the ice, ultimately draining to the ocean and contributing to sea level rise.

During her talk, Poinar highlighted the role of satellites in advancing polar science: “Aircraft and satellites are revolutionizing glaciology. They’re revealing new, hidden facts about the ice sheet constantly.”

New member of the lab

Tyler Sutterley joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory in April as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. Sutterley comes from the Earth System Science Department at the University of California, Irvine.There, he used a combination of remote sensing observations from NASA's GRACE, ICESat-1 and Operation IceBridge missions and climate model outputs to study modern-day changes of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. During his fellowship at Goddard, he'll use laser altimetry observations from Operation IceBridge, ICESat-1 and the upcoming ICESat-2 mission to investigate elevation changes in the Antarctic Peninsula and in West Antarctica, currently the biggest Antarctic contributors to sea level rise. Using the suite of elevation data, he'll investigate the impacts of ice shelf thinning, degradation and loss on the behavior of the inland glaciers flowing into the shelves. 

March 2017

Operation IceBridge Expands It Arctic Reach

Operation IceBridge completed the first flight of its 2017 Arctic spring campaign on March 9. This year’s campaign, which will continue until May 12, will for the first time in IceBridge’s history explore the Arctic’s Eurasian Basin through two research flights based out of Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the northern Atlantic Ocean.

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. 

January 2017

Comiso Retires After Almost 40 Years At NASA

Joey Comiso Josefino “Joey” Comiso retired from NASA on January 3rd. During his nearly 40 years at NASA, Comiso has published over 130 refereed journal articles, 20 book chapters, four co-authored books, and a 500-page singly-authored book, Polar Oceans from Space. He received NASA’s Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal in 2013 and NASA’s Career Achievement Award in 2014.
“Joey’s research and scientific leadership has helped to establish Goddard as the world leader for passive microwave remote sensing of sea ice,” said Thorsten Markus, chief of the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory. “The passive microwave sea ice record that he and his colleagues initiated in the 1970s and continue to generate has become the key data record of the dramatically changing Arctic and Antarctic sea ice covers.”
Comiso said he will continue his research on the Arctic and Antarctic climate system as an Emeritus scientist. He has been working on enhancements and validation of historical surface temperature and sea ice cover data and wants to use the enhanced measurements in conjunction with ancillary data to improve the understanding of unexpected trends in the Antarctic sea ice cover and dramatic reductions of sea ice extents during some recent years in the Arctic region. In addition, Comiso wants to assess the impact of an almost ice-free Arctic Ocean in the summer to the primary productivity of the region and global ocean circulation.
Nowicki and Krabill Receive Most Valuable Player Awards
The NASA Cryospheric Science Program and Operation IceBridge recognized the work of Sophie Nowicki and Kyle Krabill during the Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment and Operation IceBridge’s annual meetings, held at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in January. 
Nowicki, an ice sheet modeler at Goddard, received the NASA Cryospheric Sciences Most Valuable Player Award for 2016 for “selfless and tireless leadership of the ice sheet community in support of improved sea level rise projections, and sustained contributions in connecting the ice sheets to the global system.”
Krabill, an engineer at NASA Wallops, received the Operation IceBridge Antarctica 2016 Most Valuable Player Award. The citation read:  “For outstanding support and dedication to the NASA Operation IceBridge Campaign from September through November 2016. Besides expertly executing your primary tasks, your initiative to obtain daily satellite imagery, from International partners, around the complex topography of the Antarctic Peninsula, allowed the team to make more aggressive ‘go’ decisions than they could have otherwise effectively made. This new information enabled the team to address the highest-priority science targets around the Peninsula with far greater confidence from previous years and was a major reason Operation IceBridge completed all eight baseline-priority flights in 2016.”
New Civil Servant
Melinda Webster, who joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow in 2016, became a civil servant on January 9th. As a research physical scientist, Melinda studies Arctic sea ice through the development and application of remote sensing products with in situ data. Her research focuses on the geophysical changes of the Arctic sea ice cover to improve knowledge of the role of sea ice in the global climate system.

November 2016

 IceBridge Finishes Annual Study of Changing Antarctic Ice

Operation IceBridge ended its eighth consecutive Antarctic deployment on Nov. 17, tying with the 2012 campaign record for the most research flights carried out during a single Antarctic season.
During its six weeks of operations from its base in Punta Arenas, in the southernmost tip of Chile, IceBridge carried out 24 flights over Antarctica. 
In addition to a visit from NASA Deputy Administrator Dava Newman, IceBridge also welcomed U.S. Ambassador to Chile Carol Perez. Other guest participation included visitors from the State Department and U.S. Embassy in Chile; six U.S. teachers currently living and teaching in Chile; a Facebook representative; a visual artist; two photographers; and several journalists from various media outlets.
  • Read more about the conclusion of IceBridge’s 2016 Antarctic campaign here.
 Extremely Warm 2015-’16 Winter Cyclone Weakened Arctic Sea Ice Pack
A large cyclone that crossed the Arctic in December 2015 brought so much heat and humidity to this otherwise frigid and dry environment that it thinned and shrunk the sea ice cover during a time of the year when the ice should have been growing thicker and stronger, a NASA study found.
The extremely warm and humid air mass associated with the cyclone caused an amount of energy equivalent to the power used in one year by half a million American homes to be transferred from the atmosphere to the surface of the sea ice in the Kara-Barents region. As a result, the area’s sea ice thinned by almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) on average. At the same time, the storm winds pushed the edges of the sea ice north, compacting the ice pack.

October 2016

 IceBridge Begins Eighth Year of Antarctic Flights 

Operation IceBridge completed the first research flight of its 2016 Antarctic campaign on October 14. The campaign will continue through November 19. This year, the mission is based in Punta Arenas, a city at the southern tip of Chile. From there, IceBridge is carrying 12-hour flights back and forth to Antarctica, covering most of the western section of the frozen continent – the region that is experiencing the fastest changes and is Antarctica’s biggest contributor to sea level rise.
The information IceBridge has gathered during its eight years of flights in the Antarctic, which includes data on the thickness and shape of snow and ice, as well as the topography of the land and ocean floor beneath the ocean and the ice, has allowed scientists to determine that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in irreversible decline. Researchers have also used IceBridge data to evaluate climate models of Antarctica and map the bedrock underneath Antarctic ice.

September 2016

 Nine Lab Members Receive HOBI Awards

The outstanding work of nine members of the cryospheric science laboratory was recognized during the 2016 Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Annual Award Ceremony, held on Sept. 1. Stacy Milligan and Lisa Karmel received the HOBI award for exceptional administrative support. Ludovic Brucker won the HOBI outreach award for exceptional public outreach and mentoring of students in the field of remote sensing of the cryosphere. Kyle Krabill, Nick DiGirolamos, Larry Stock, Jeremy Harbeck and Jeff Guerber all got awards for outstanding technical support far beyond their responsibilities.
Finally, Dorothy Hall (pictured) received the HOBI Career Achievement award, recognizing her lifetime work.
 New Member of The Lab
Melinda Webster joined the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory in September as a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. She comes from the University of Washington, where she completed a Ph.D. in Oceanography researching snow and melt ponds on Arctic sea ice. During her fellowship at Goddard, she'll use laser altimetry data from NASA’s ICESat and Operation IceBridge missions to investigate the topographic changes in first-year and multiyear sea ice, and the effects of those changes on spring snow distributions and summer melt pond coverage.
New blog: Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project 2016
Sea ice scientist Alek Petty will spend four weeks participating in the 2016 Joint Ocean Ice Study, a research expedition around the Arctic Ocean’s Beaufort Gyre. The goal of these expeditions, which have been taking place since 2013, is to better understand the Beaufort Gyre’s circulation, freshwater content, water mass properties and biota distributions. Petty will be blogging about his experience in NASA’s Earth Observatory’s “Notes from the Field” blog.
  • Check out the Beaufort Gyre Exploration blog.

August 2016

 IceBridge Launches Campaign To Study Summer Land Ice Melt

Operation IceBridge, NASA’s airborne survey of polar ice, is flying in Greenland for the second time this year, to observe the impact of the summer melt season on the ice sheet. The IceBridge flights, which began on Aug. 27 and will continue until Sept. 16, are mostly repeats of lines that the team flew in early May, so that scientists can observe changes in ice elevation between the spring and late summer.

July 2016

IceBridge’s Summer Campaign In Alaska

Operation IceBridge conducted a short summer campaign in July to study Arctic sea ice melt. The flights, carried July 13-21 from Barrow, Alaska, were primarily aimed to map the extent, frequency and depth of melt ponds, the aquamarine pools of melt water that form on sea ice during spring and summer. Previous studies have shown that how melt ponds form early in the summer is a good predictor of September’s sea ice yearly minimum extent and this IceBridge campaign aims to provide data to help improve melt pond models. 

During the Barrow deployment, IceBridge flew six four-hour flights over sea ice in the Beaufort and Chuckchi seas.

New Visiting Scientist

Cynthia Garcia-Eidell finished her Masters in Environmental Engineering from the Catholic University of Korea and served as one of the main researchers in the Philippine Senate Committee on Science and Technology and the Congressional Commission on Science, Technology and Engineering. As a visiting scientist at the cryospheric sciences laboratory, she is studying space-observed salinity distribution in the Arctic and relationship with sea ice retreat in spring, plankton concentration and sea surface temperature under the direction of Josefino Comiso. She intends to pursue further studies on climate change and satellite-remote sensing of the Arctic as the research component of a Ph.D. program.
Second IceBridge Intern For The Summer
Midshipman First Class Colton Byers is a senior at the United States Naval Academy (USNA) majoring in Oceanography. Midshipman Byers is participating in an internship with the NASA's Operation IceBridge from July 25 to August 16. During the internship he will focus on developing new techniques for using unmanned aerial systems to collect data on snow and sea and land ice properties. After completion of his internship, Byers will continue to work with NASA OIB through the spring of 2017 as part of his Honors Oceanography Independent Research project. After graduation from USNA in May 2017, Byers hopes to be commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps.

June 2016

 IceBridge's Summer Intern

Sarah Claudy is a senior majoring in English at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Claudy is participating in an Operation IceBridge internship from May 31 to June 24 under the direction of John Woods and Jefferson Beck. During her time at Goddard, she will focus on science communication by creating social media products and educational material for IceBridge. With the experience she gains from this internship, she hopes to pursue further study in environmental policy before, after, or during her time as a Nuclear Surface Warfare Officer in the US Navy.

May 2016

 Claire Parkinson Elected to National Academy of Sciences

The National Academy of Sciences announced on May 3 the election of 84 new members and 21 foreign associates from 14 countries in recognition of their distinguished and continuing achievements in original research. Among the newly elected members is Claire Parkinson, climate change senior scientist at NASA Goddard’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory.  

The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit institution that was established under a congressional charter signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863. It recognizes achievement in science by election to membership, and — with the National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council — provides science, technology, and health policy advice to the federal government and other organizations.

 IceBridge Completes 2016 Arctic Spring Campaign

Operation IceBridge wrapped up its eighth spring Arctic campaign on May 21. During their five weeks of operations, mission scientists carried out six research flights over sea ice and ten over land ice.

"We collected data over key portions of the Greenland Ice Sheet, like the fast-changing Zachariae Isstrom Glacier, and we got the broad geographic coverage of Arctic sea ice we needed,” said Nathan Kurtz, IceBridge’s project scientist and a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “This is an important continuation of the time series for Arctic ice, particularly with the very warm Arctic winter noticeably impacting sea ice retreat and ice sheet melt onset this year.”

The campaign flights were carried aboard one of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hurricane Hunter planes, a P-3 Orion. 

For more info, read this feature

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. 
To learn more, click here.

Measuring Snow in the Canadian Arctic

Ludovic Brucker carried out a snow measurement campaign in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut in collaboration with University of Sherbrooke, Quebec in late March and early April. He measured snow properties in tens of snow pits within the Greiner watershed of the Canadian High Arctic Research Station. The campaign revisited three transects first surveyed last year, and extended the domain with two new transects. This activity is part of Brucker's project on satellite detection of rain on snow events.

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
For more info, click here.

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.

November 2015

Lab Chief Gives Talk To Ambassador Brzezinski

On November 6, Laboratory Chief Thorsten Markus gave a presentation at the NASA Goddard’s hyperwall on NASA’s leadership in Arctic science to Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, Tom Wagner (cryosphere program scientist at NASA Headquarters), and representatives from the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy. Ambassador Brzezinski is the Executive Director of the US Interagency Arctic Executive Steering Committee. The purpose of his visit to NASA was to inform Ambassador Brzezinski on NASA’s activities in preparation for the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, COP 21. The group also visited the ICESat-2 integration facilities and met with ICESat-2 Instrument Manager Cathy Richardson. 


Carrying Fieldwork and Blogging From Antarctica

Ice sheet modelers Ryan Walker and Christine Dow are spending a month at the Jang Bogo station in Terra Nova Bay, Antarctica, to measure flexure of ice tongues due to ocean tides. The researchers are installing five GPS stations on floating sections of the Nansen Ice Shelf, to record uplift of the ice, plus two tilt sensors at the grounding line to measure subtle changes in ice uplift and motion.

September 2015

 IceBridge Flies Parallel Campaigns At Both Poles

For the first time in its seven years of flights, NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of changes in Earth’s polar ice, is conducting overlapping campaigns in Antarctica and the Arctic. Since 2009, IceBridge has studied Antarctic ice conditions each fall, but this year a new field campaign has been added to collect measurements of sea and land ice in the Arctic to provide insight into the impact of the summer melt season.
The Antarctic campaign was the first to kick off on Sept. 22, as IceBridge successfully completed its first research flight over the southernmost continent. Antarctic flights continue until Nov. 2. The first flight of the Arctic campaign was on  Sept. 23, with ongoing flights until Oct. 23.

August 2015

 SIMPL Field Campaign in Greenland

The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) mission flew a laser altimeter instrument aboard an aircraft over Greenland for three weeks in August. The instrument, called the Slope Imaging Multi-polarization Photon-counting Lidar, or SIMPL, took height measurements with both a red and a green laser, which will allow scientists to determine whether green light behaves differently when it reflects off different types of snow and ice.
The Greenland SIMPL campaign is part of a multi-year, pre-launch effort to find out as much as possible about how lasers and photon detectors similar to those on ICESat-2 measure ice sheet height, and what that photon data looks like. 

July 2015

 Laboratory Participates In 2015 Science Jamboree

A dozen members of the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory participated in the 2015 Science Jamboree's, Goddard's yearly outreach event that bring together displays and demonstrations from all of the center's science divisions.
The laboratory's booth, which received visits from Chris Scolese, Goddard Center Director (pictured), Colleen Hartman, Science and Exploration Directorate (SED) Director and SED Deputy Director Piers Sellers, featured an over 200-year-old ice core from Greenland, a demonstration of glacier dynamics and models of the aircraft that Operation IceBridge uses in its Arctic and Antarctic campaigns. Member of the lab discussed cryospheric research with a constant stream of summer interns, day visitors and researchers from other laboratories, and handed out outreach materials on ICESat-2, Operation IceBridge and sea ice.

June 2015

Parkinson Received 2015 Nordberg Award

Claire Parkinson received the 2015 William Nordberg Memorial Award in Earth Science "for her work enabling a deeper understanding of the role of sea ice in the climate system, for outstanding leadership of EOS/Aqua science, and for impressive educational outreach accomplishments."
The award was presented during the annual William Nordberg lecture held on June 10, where after a brief ceremony, Parkinson gave a talk titled "Climate Change as Revealed in Satellite Sea Ice Observations".

May 2015

Modeling Water Channels Under Greenland's Ice Sheet

 Christine Dow recently published a study modeling how water channels develop under the Greenland Ice Sheet after a rapid surface lake drainage. Surface lakes on the Greenland Ice Sheet can drain to the bed in a matter of hours, causing the ice to quickly speed up over the course of a day. Directly accessing the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet is very challenging, particularly in regions where ice is more than 3000 feet thick. As a result, numerical models using data collected from field work as inputs are an ideal way to assess development of drainage systems at the base of the ice.

The work by Dow and colleagues shows that channels in inland regions of the ice sheet do not develop rapidly during lake drainage and the water instead exits the area as a turbulent water sheet. Furthermore, the modeled channels only grew slowly during the melt season and suggest that efficient drainage networks may not regulate the volumes of water input to the bed. As a result, with more meltwater produced on the surface of the ice sheet in a warming climate, the ice in the interior might maintain speeds higher than winter velocities. 

April 2015

National Science Foundation Funds Brunt's Study Of Antarctic Ice Flow

The edge of the Ross Ice Shelf (Credit: NASA/Operation IceBridge)

Kelly Brunt received funding from the National Science Foundation’s Division of Polar Programs to support a two-year study of the flow of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. This ice shelf, together with the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, buttresses the seaward flow of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the portion of Antarctica’s grounded ice that is most at risk of catastrophic disintegration and is currently the largest Antarctic contribution to sea level rise.
Brunt’s project will develop a model that explores how ocean tides modulate the movement of land ice toward the sea and will use existing GPS measurements to evaluate the model's results.

March 2015

Operation IceBridge Launches 2015 Arctic Campaign

NASA's Operation IceBridge, an airborne survey of polar ice, started its seventh Arctic campaign on March 19. This year’s science flights over Arctic sea and land ice will continue until May 22 and will have three parts: the first, based in the Thule Air Base in northern Greenland and including a short deployment to Fairbanks, Alaska, willfocus mostly on sea ice. The second leg of the deployment will be based in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and it will focus on surveying ice surface elevation and thickness at several rapidly changing points of the Greenland ice sheet. Afterward, the team will return to Thule for the last phase of the field campaign, which will include both land and sea ice flights.

February 2015

Crawford's Field Campaign To Measure Snow Properties In Minnesota

As part of his NASA postdoctoral program research, Christopher Crawford will lead a field excursion on snowmobiles into the mid-continent near boreal forest region of Voyagers National Park on the Minnesota -Canadian border. Crawford will be accompanied by his University of Minnesota colleague, Lane Johnson. They will collect ground-based measurements of pure snow, snow in forest, and snow on lakes using a field spectrometer supported by the Biospheric Optics Laboratory at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Crawford will take measurements in coincidence with Landsat 7 and 8 acquisitions, and a hyperspectral image from the EO-1 Hyperion Imaging Spectrometer is scheduled. Ground-based measurements of snow properties are important for validating snow cover, snow grain size, and snow albedo retrieval algorithms, supporting current and future operational snow mapping applications, and advancing research on satellite snow product development to enable climate and hydrological science studies on seasonal snow variability and change.


November 2014

Casey To Participate In Ice Core Drilling At South Pole

Kimberly Casey left for the South Pole, Antarctica, on November 8th for the austral summer season to assist in the recovery of an ice core. The ice core will be drilled to a depth of 1500 meters, providing an environmental record spanning approximately 40,000 years that will be used to investigate changes in climate. Dr. Casey will work on ice core logging and recovery efforts at the South Pole for four months. She will also conduct field observations related to her studies of pollutant deposition on ice.

Parkinson Becomes Member of AAAS’ Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee

Claire ParkinsonThe Board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) appointed Claire Parkinson in October to a three-year term on the association's Annual Meeting Scientific Program Committee. The committee is charged with establishing the theme and program tracks of AAAS’ annual meeting, reviewing proposals, and selecting symposia. It is chaired by the AAAS President and is composed of 13 members appointed by the board to reflect the wide range of scientific disciplines represented by the association.

October 2014

IceBridge Begins 2014 Antarctic Campaign

On October 16, Operation IceBridge began its sixth campaign of research flights over Antarctica to study changes in the continent’s ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. This year’s airborne campaign, based in Punta Arenas (Chile), will revisit a section of the Antarctic ice sheet that recently was found to be in irreversible decline. The mission also will collect data on Antarctic sea ice, which recently reached a record high coverage. In addition to extending ICESat’s data record over land and sea ice, IceBridge will also help set the stage for ICESat-2 by measuring ice the satellite will fly over.

»To learn more about IceBridge’s 2014 Antarctic Campaign, check this press release and the campaign’s blog.


ARISE Investigates Effects of Sea Ice Loss On Arctic Climate

A new NASA field campaign flew over the Arctic this summer to study the effect of sea ice retreat on Arctic climate. The Arctic Radiation IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) conducted research flights Aug. 28 through Oct. 1, covering the peak of summer sea ice melt. This was NASA’s first Arctic airborne campaign designed to take simultaneous measurements of ice, clouds and the levels of incoming and outgoing radiation, the balance of which determines the degree of climate warming.

»To learn more about ARISE, read this press release.

Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Continues Below-Average Trend

The 2014 Arctic sea ice minimum, reached on Sept. 17, is the sixth lowest on the satellite record. Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 5.02 million square kilometers, according to analysis from NASA and National Snow and Ice Data Center scientists. This year’s minimum extent is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 6.22 million square km.

This year’s Arctic sea ice minimum is the 35th in the uninterrupted sea ice record that started with the launch of NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite in November 1978. Check out this story on how a group of Goddard scientists developed the techniques to study sea ice from space.

» More on the 2014 Arctic sea ice minimum

Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Maximum

Sea ice surrounding Antarctica reached a new record high extent this year, covering more of the southern oceans than it has since scientists began a long-term satellite record to map sea ice extent in the late 1970s. The upward trend in the Antarctic, however, is only about a third of the magnitude of the rapid loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.

»Learn more about the 2014 Antarctic sea ice maximum

July 2014

Ice Sheet and Glacier Modelers Meet at Goddard

CMIP Meeting Lab researchers Sophie Nowicki and Ryan Walker were two of the organizers of the Ice Sheet MIP for CMIP6 meeting, a meeting of ice sheet and glacier modelers that gathered about 35 participants from 10 countries on July 16-18 at the Goddard campus. The sea-level projections made by the glaciological community as part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process have often been out of phase with the projections considered by the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project community. A primary focus of this meeting was to develop a plan that will allow ice sheet and glacier models to be better integrated, in order to improve both sea level projections due to changes in the cryosphere and our understanding of the cryosphere in a changing climate.

Lab Participation at 2014 Science Jamboree

Science Jamboree The cryopheric sciences laboratory had a strong representation at the 2014 Science Jamboree. Once again, Goddard’s Science and Exploration Directorate offered displays and demonstrations from all science divisions to those participating in the center’s employee engagement activities.

The laboratory had a table displaying several hands-on demonstrations on how glaciers move, ice cores from Greenland, and information on Operation IceBridge. Right next to it, ICESat-2 displayed its Traveling Altimeter Exhibit, a demonstrable mock-up of the upcoming satellite mission that takes “personal elevation profiles” of the participants. In the Hyperwall room, lab member Christopher Shuman gave a presentation displaying a time series of the Antarctic Peninsula.

MABEL’s Alaskan Campaign

MABEL instrument flight takeoff.Starting this month, scientists from the cryospheric laboratory, together with other researchers, engineers and pilots are going to Fairbanks, Alaska, to fly an airborne test instrument called the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar, or MABEL. MABEL collects data in the same way that the upcoming Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2)’s instrument will – with lasers and photon-detectors. Between July 12 and August 1, MABEL will fly aboard NASA’s high-altitude ER-2 aircraft as the Arctic sea ice and glaciers are melting. The data from the Alaskan campaign will allow researchers to develop computer programs, or algorithms, to analyze the information ICESat-2 will collect on Arctic summer conditions.

  • Check out MABEL’s field blog here

June 2014

2014 Summer Interns

The summer is here, and with it comes a new cohort of interns and summer workers for NASA’s cryospheric sciences laboratory. 

Kimberly Gutstein, a graduate student in applied mathematics at San Diego State University, is working on sea ice thickness estimation using Aquarius data, under the direction of Paolo de Matthaeis.

Natasha Marie Goodfox Chenot, is a member of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma and she is completing a major in Environmental Science at Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas. During her internship, working under the supervision of Lora Koenig and Ludovic Brucker, Chenot is investigating snow properties and altitudes along the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, analyzing in-situ measurements collected during an Antarctic traverse in 2011. She is comparing these measurements with those taken from CryoSat-2 satellite observations, and investigating the correlations between snow properties and regional elevations.

Irma Caraballo Álvarez is working under the tutelage of Emmanuel Dinnat and Ludovic Brucker on analyzing sea surface salinity measurements from Aquarius and comparing them to ship borne measurements. Caraballo Álvarez is pursuing her PhD in Environmental Sciences at the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras. Her interests include geological and oceanographical applications in remote sensing and climate change variables as evidenced in beach rocks.

Zumrad Kabilova, an undergraduate from Goucher College majoring in mathematics and physics, has been hired this summer to work on the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS). Kabilova is collaborating with the ATLAS Onboard Receiver Algorithm team, under the supervision of Ann Rackley  and Jan McGarry.

Samiah Moustafa is a PhD candidate in the Department of Geography at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. Moustafa’s general research interests include Arctic hydroclimatology and assessing Greenland ice sheet meltwater losses at the pixel, catchment, and continental scale. Her current research, under the supervision of Lora Koenig, focuses on characterizing seasonal changes in surface albedo and its modulation of melt in southwest Greenland’s ablation zone. Additionally, she is working on a research project that uses a multi-scale approach to evaluate different satellite-derived albedo product’s ability to capture the inherent spatial heterogeneity of albedo found along Greenland’s ablation zone.

Lab Members Discuss Arctic Sea Ice Change With National Geographic

Josefino Comiso and Walt Meier spoke to National Geographic reporters about the shrinking of the Arctic sea ice cover, which has prompted the publisher to update its depiction of the ice in its upcoming 10th edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World.

  • Read the National Geographic story here


May 2014

Satellite Rain-On-Snow Detection to Help Reindeer Herders

Photo showing rain on snow.

NASA awarded the research proposal entitled “Satellite Rain-On-Snow Detection: A New Climate Change Product” submitted to the Science Mission Directorate’s Earth Science Division, in response to NASA's Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science "The Science of Terra and Aqua". The project's team is international and composed of:

  • Ludovic Brucker (NASA GSFC / USRA GESTAR)
  • Joe Munchak (NASA GSFC / Uni. of Maryland)
  • Nancy Maynard (NASA GSFC / Uni. of Miami)
  • Alexandre Langlois and Caroline Dolant (University of Sherbrooke, Canada)
  • Anders Oskal, Executive Director, International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR)
  • Inger Marie Gaup Eira (Dr.), Assoc. Professor, Vice-Rector, Sámi University College, Norway and International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry (ICR)
  • Svein D Mathiesen (Dr.), Institute Leader, Professor, University of the Arctic Institute for Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry (UArctic EALÁT Institute at ICR

The objective is to develop a satellite algorithm using the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometers (AMSR-E and AMSR2) for detecting rain-on-snow events daily over the subarctic regions. This will provide a new indicator for wintertime climate change monitoring, and it will help communities of native Arctic reindeer herders with climate adaptation to improve herd management. The algorithm will be validated using satellite rainfall data from the new Global Precipitation Measurement mission, and in-situ measurements in Northern Canada. Some ground-based observations as well as efficient dissemination of satellite ROS product to reindeer herders and managers across the Arctic will be implemented through the U Arctic EALAT Institute on Circumpolar Reindeer Husbandry, the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, the Reindeer Portal, and the Arctic Portal.

If you are interested in a preliminary version of the data product, please contact Lucovic Brucker.

New Member of The Lab

Photo of Christine Dow.

Christine Dow joined NASA GSFC’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory in April as a postdoctoral research fellow. Following on from her PhD research focused on subglacial hydrological development as a result of rapid lake drainage events in Greenland, Christine will be applying hydrological models to assess the stability and hydrological balance of sub-Antarctic lakes. Her modeling will be focused on the Recovery Lakes, using data from NASA's Operation IceBridge for validation. This research will allow examination of the role of sub-Antarctic lakes in ice stream dynamics that, in turn, are important arteries of the Antarctic ice sheets.

April 2014

ICESat-2 At The USA Science and Engineering Festival


A brand new exhibit of ICEsat-2 made its debut at the 2014 USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC, on April 24-26. The ICESat-2 Traveling Altimeter Exhibit serves as a demonstrable mock-up of the upcoming satellite mission; a small-scale version of the satellite moving along a track overhead takes “personal elevation profiles” (height measurements) of the participants. Although the actual satellite will use a laser altimeter, the exhibit uses a simple radar instrument, yet will show how ICESat-2 will take measurements from space.

This exhibit was a collaboration between NASA's ICESat-2 Education and Public Outreach team and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, who built it. This exhibit will be displayed at large science and education conferences such as the National Science Teachers Association conferences and the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and it will take residence in some ICESat-2 science center partner locations and in several NASA centers' buildings.

Climate Change and Indigenous Arctic Communities

Photo of Reindeer.

Nancy Maynard, a lead author of the Polar Regions chapter of the International Panel on Climate Change’s latest report and a Scientist Emeritus at the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, participated in a special event to highlight the findings of this report on impacts to indigenous peoples of the Arctic. The March 31, 2014 event, held in Kautokeino, Norway, was spear headed by the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry, the Arctic EALAT Institute, and the Association of World Reindeer Herders.

The warming Arctic and major changes in the cryosphere are significantly impacting the health and well-being of Arctic residents and are projected to increase – especially, for many indigenous peoples,” Maynard said. Climate change has caused snow and weather variations that affect indigenous reindeer herding communities: for example, increasing temperature variations in wintertime accompanied by rain make the snow slushy. When the mix of rain and snow refreezes, it forms ice layers that block the reindeers’ access to their food. At the same time, the hunt for natural resources, and increases in future oil and gas development in the Arctic, are shrinking the grazing lands.

The new IPCC report concludes that there is a need for more robust solutions that combine science and technology with indigenous knowledge.


March 2014

IceBridge Begins 2014 Arctic Campaign


Researchers from Operation IceBridge left NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., on March 10 for Greenland to begin a new season of collecting data on Arctic land and sea ice. Flights will run through May 23 from Thule Air Base and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, with a weeklong deployment to Fairbanks, Alaska. The first part of the campaign will focus on sea ice in the Arctic Ocean north of Greenland and in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas north of Alaska. The remainder of the campaign will turn to measuring ice surface elevation and thickness at many of the Greenland Ice Sheet's outlet glaciers.

New Expedition to Measure Greenland Firn Aquifer


A team of researchers from University of Utah and NASA Goddard Space Center’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory headed back to southeast Greenland in March to continue investigating the physical properties of a perennial firn aquifer, a large reservoir of water trapped within the ice sheet. This will be the second field trip to the aquifer for the researchers -- this year, the team will maintain the temperature-measuring equipment left in place by the previous expedition, collect additional radar measurements, install a weather station, and try traditional ground-water techniques to date the stored water and calculate its permeability.

  • Follow the Greenland Aquifer Team expedition on their blog.

December 2013 - February 2014

Cryo Lab Members Receive Robert H. Goddard awards

Three members of the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory received 2013 Robert H. Goddard Exceptional Achievement Awards.


Christy Hansen and Michael Studinger received a team leadership award for their extraordinary efforts and meticulous planning and implementation of Operation IceBridge missions that are enabling 3-dimensional views of the Earth’s polar regions.


Sophie Nowicki received a mentoring award, for attracting and mentoring talented students and postdocs into the challenging field of numerical modeling to improve our understanding of global climate and sea level rise.

October-November 2013

IceBridge’s First Antarctic Campaign from McMurdo Station


Operation IceBridge begun its 2013 Antarctic field campaign with a survey of the Transantarctic Mountains on Nov. 18. Unlike previous years, when IceBridge Antarctic missions were conducted out of Punta Arenas, Chile, this year the flights will leave from he National Science Foundation's McMurdo Station in Antarctica. The new base of operations will allow IceBridge to survey areas that had been too remote from Chile, such as the Ross Sea area.

To learn more, visit the IceBridge website

History of Winter 2014: Registration Open


Educators can now register for the 2014 edition of History of Winter, a week-long workshop for elementary and secondary science teachers to experience the world of cryospheric science research. Guided by professional glaciologists, the participants will spend the week of February 13- in Lake Placid, New York learning about common field research techniques that are often used as ground validation for NASA satellite missions.

To register, visit the HOW website

Posters on NASA’s Work in Greenland Available for Download


Ice in Motion, a series of posters depicting NASA’s work in Greenland, is now freely available for download here. The posters, which were translated into Danish and Greenlandic with the help of high school students, are currently on display at several airports and high schools in Greenland. The posters were designed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, in collaboration with the United States Embassy in Copenhagen, the government of Greenland and the Joint Committee, a forum involving the Greenlandic, Danish and U.S. governments.

Read more about this exhibit in The Arctic Journal.


July-September 2013

Comiso’s Role in IPCC Fifth Assessment Report

Photo of Josefino Comiso

Josefino “Joey” Comiso, Senior Research Scientist at Goddard’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory, is coordinating lead author for “Chapter 4: Observations: Cryosphere” of the Fifth Assessment Report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Comiso is also a contributing author to one of the most popular portions of the new report, the Summary for Policymakers, and he traveled to Copenhagen in late September to participate in the negotiations over the wording of this summary.

New Members of the Lab

Photo of Walt Meier

Walt Meier started at the lab as a research scientist in July. Meier, whose research focuses on remote sensing of sea ice, development of new sea ice products and sea ice climate data records, and analyzing changes in the Arctic sea ice cover, comes from the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in Boulder, where he worked as a research scientist from 2003 to 2013. He had previously been an adjunct assistant professor in the Oceanography Department at the U.S. Naval Academy and a visiting scientist at the U.S. National Ice Center.

Photo of Nathan Kurtz

Nathan Kurtz, who first joined the lab in 2005 as a graduate research assistant, became a civil servant on July 1. In his new role as a research physical scientist, Kurtz works on NASA's Operation IceBridge project as well as the ICESat and CryoSat-2 satellite missions.

Photo of Christopher Crawford

Christopher Crawford joined the lab in August as a NASA Postdoctoral Fellow. Crawford comes to NASA Goddard from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he recently completed a Ph.D. in the Department of Geography. His research focuses on developing multi-sensor visible/infrared snow cover climate data records of seasonal mountain snowpack extent across the western United States for climate variability and change study.

June 2013

GROVER Passes Its First Polar Test

Photo of GROVER.

GROVER didn’t have it easy in Greenland: the solar-powered rover, developed under the supervision of Lora Koenig, had to defy 30 mph gusts and temperatures down to minus 22 F while Boise State University graduate students tested its power consumption and ability to collect radar data, among other parameters. The robot demonstrated it was able to execute commands sent from afar over an Iridium satellite connection.

To learn more about the GROVER testing and watch a video, click here.

Lab Offers Activities for DeafBlind Camp of Maryland

Photo from the DeafBlind Camp.

Some 100 campers and volunteers from the DeafBlind Camp of Maryland were able to enjoy the hands-on activities organized by the Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory and other NASA Goddard labs on June 12. One of the most popular activities among the visitors, most of whom had significant hearing and vision loss, was trying on the polar gear displayed at the lab’s booth. The campers also showed interest in a Greenlandic ice core bit and in a visual and tactile demonstration of how ice deforms at different temperatures.

March - April 2013

Greenland Aquifer Team Blog

Greenland Aquifer Team

Glaciologist Lora Koenig is leading an expedition to southeast Greenland in April to investigate an aquifer trapped within the ice sheet. The team, which includes lab member Ludovic Brucker, will drill several holes in the ice sheet to analyze snow density and structure. They will also leave instrumentation in the drilled holes to record temperatures over a year.

> Read Lora Koenig’s field blog on NASA’s Earth Observatory website.

Google + Hangout on Sea Level Rise

The Hangout

Ice sheet modeler Sophie Nowicki participated in a Google + Hangout on sea level rise with three other scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the U.S. Geological Survey on April 2. The hour-long Hangout, which covered topics ranging from uncertainties in sea level rise modeling to potential impacts on coastal communities, was the kick-off event for NASA’s Earth Month celebrations.

> Watch a recording of the Hangout on NASA Goddard’s YouTube Channel.

2013 Artic Sea Ice Maximum is 5th Lowest on Record

Sea Ice Maximum

A NASA analysis led by Joey Comiso determined that the annual maximum Arctic sea ice extent was reached on Feb. 28 and it was the fifth lowest sea ice winter extent in the past 35 years. The new maximum —5.82 million square miles (15.09 million square kilometers)— is in line with a continuing trend in declining winter Arctic sea ice extent: nine of the ten smallest recorded maximums have occurred during the last decade. The 2013 winter extent is 144,402 square miles (374,000 square kilometers) below the average annual maximum extent for the last three decades.

> Read more about the 2013 Arctic sea ice maximum and watch an animation of sea ice in this web feature.

Cryospheric Scientists Featured on “Know Your Earth” Campaign

Know Your Earth Campaign

Lab members Claire Parkinson and Nathan Kurtz are profiled in NASA’s “Know Your Earth 3.0, Local Connections” campaign. Many of the participants of this educational project will be speaking about their work at NASA to schools, youth groups and other organizations in their hometowns.

> Find out more about Parkinson’s and Kurtz’s work on the “Know your Earth” website.

Operation IceBridge and ICESat-2: Now on Facebook

OIB Facebook Page

Operation IceBridge, currently carrying its 2013 Arctic campaign, has a new Facebook page for their frequent updates and photos from the field.

ICESat-2, scheduled to launch in 2016, is also on social media: you can follow it on Twitter and Facebook.


January – February 2013

HOW Participants Thirteen middle school, high school and college teachers, education students, museum educators and state park environmental education specialists from four states, plus a hydrology student from the Czech Republic, participated in this year’s edition of History of Winter at Northwood School, Lake Placid, New York. Divided in three teams led by ice scientists from NASA Goddard and from the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab in Hanover, New Hampshire, the winter camp participants learned about research tools and techniques polar scientists use in field studies of snow and ice. Lab chief Thorsten Markus and lab member Lora Koenig gave lectures on the study of sea ice and the ice sheets and on the upcoming ICESat-2 mission.

Applications for the 2014 workshop will open this summer at: how.gsfc.nasa.gov
OIB PARCA Workshop The cryospheric sciences laboratory hosted the Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA) meeting and the IceBridge Science Team Meeting on January 29-31, 2013. This year’s PARCA meeting emphasized the integration of multiple data types for a broader understanding of the changes across the Arctic, ongoing progress in characterizing the processes that are driving the observations and the impact of particular data (or lack of thereof) on numerical models. The IceBridge science team, a group of polar scientists from a variety of institutions that guides the mission toward meeting its science requirements, discussed research and plans for the upcoming IceBridge 2013 Arctic campaign, including flight lines, and future collaborations with various other groups outside of NASA.

October – November 2012

Cryospheric Sciences Lab To Support “History of Winter”
History of Winter NASA Goddard’s Cryospheric Sciences Laboratory is now the main sponsor of “History of Winter”, a successful NASA education program that has been giving teachers the opportunity to experience cryospheric science field research firsthand for over a decade. The participating educators attend a week-long workshop in Lake Placid, NY that focuses on field experiments and data collection frequently used for ground validation of NASA satellites.

“This is a well established program and I am hoping that it will become an integral part of NASA’s cryosphere education efforts”, said Thorsten Markus, chief of the cryospheric sciences lab.

> Learn more about History of Winter on its YouTube channel
NASA TV Takes a Look At The Poles
Science Uncut Thorsten Markus and Lora Koenig participated in the inaugural episode of Science Uncut, a new NASA TV program. Along with NASA Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati, they discussed recent changes in Earth’s poles. The conversation, led by NASA Cryospheric Science Program Manager Tom Wagner, also covered the researchers’ fieldwork in Greenland and Antarctica, their career paths, and their early motivations to study polar sciences. The episode, titled “Arctic on the edge?”, will be aired on NASA TV in December.

> Watch Science Uncut: Arctic on the Edge?
Operation IceBridge Completes Fourth Antarctic Campaign
Operation IceBridge Operation IceBridge concluded its fourth Antarctic campaign on Nov. 8. Over five weeks, IceBridge researchers gathered information on land and sea ice during its 16 flights over Antarctica. During this year's Antarctic campaign, IceBridge scientists added on to existing sea ice elevation data, surveyed new areas of the Antarctic ice sheet and reached out to students, teachers and the public.

> Visit Operation IceBridge’s blog (also available in Spanish!) to learn more about the 2012 Antarctic campaign.

August-September 2012

Opposite Behaviors? Sea Ice At The Poles

Image of ice blanketing Antarctica A recently published study by lab scientists Claire Parkinson and Don Cavalieri showed that from 1978 to 2010, the ice blanketing the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica grew by an average of roughly 6,600 square miles every year, an area larger than the state of Connecticut.
Image of Ice Cap in the Arctic. Meanwhile, the frozen cap of the Arctic Ocean broke a new record low on Sept. 16. Analysis of satellite data by Josefino Comiso and the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center showed that the sea ice extent shrunk to 1.32 million square miles at the end of the summer melt season. The new record minimum measures almost 300,000 square miles less than the previous lowest extent in the satellite record, set in mid-September, 2007, of 1.61 million square miles.

Lora Koenig At The National Library of Congress

Image of Lora Koenig. Polar scientist Lora Koenig discussed her fieldwork in Greenland and Antarctica at the Library of Congress on September 12. In front of an audience of 50, she gave insight into what it is like to do research measuring temperatures and snowfall over the polar ice sheets during both the polar night and polar day and discussed the meaning of her research results.

May-July 2012

Markus Gives Beautiful Earth Talk

Thorsten Markus gave a presentation at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science on July 17. Markus’s talk was part of the Beautiful Earth project , a combination of a live multi-media presentation featuring NASA imagery of Earth from space, a science presentation to explain the science behind those images, and hands-on education workshops with NASA Earth scientists and Native American science educators to inspire and engage youth to pursue Earth science and other science, technology, engineering and math careers.

“The innovative aspect of this project is that it combines three different and fundamental ways to raise interest and convey knowledge: it's emotional, intellectual, and hands-on,” Markus said.



The Summer Interns Are Here!

Julia Ruth is a junior at the University of Maryland, College Park, studying physics with a focus in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. She is working with Lora Koenig to measure snow accumulation rates in West Antarctica. Specifically, she is programming in MATLAB to analyze radar data to identify layers in the ice.



Michael Austerberry is an undergrad student at Creighton University, focusing on cryospheric sciences. He’s working with Sophie Nowicki on modeling the Greenland ice sheet, aiming to find optimum resolution to run global climate models and ice surface models so that one can feed into the other in a two-way coupling system.




Jose Velez, a graduate student working towards a Ph.D. in geophysics at University of Kansas, is working with Lora Koenig in determining ice properties using remote sensing methods.





Sara Hamilton recently graduated from high school and will be attending Bowdoin College this fall, to focus on cryospheric sciences. She’s working with Lora Koenig to study the behavior of supraglacial lakes on the Greenland ice sheet, a poorly understood component of the hydrologic cycle of ice sheets, and using satellite data to look at where, when and how they form.



Visiting Scholar

Austin Nossokoff is a visiting scholar to the cryospheric sciences lab this summer. He’s in his first year of graduate school as a civil engineer at from the University of Colorado. At the lab, he’s using experimental data to improve models of ice-sheet ablation zones, researching the small-scale physics and thermodynamics of ice-water interaction due to the flow of meltwater through conduits in the ice.



The Cryospheric Sciences Lab and IceBridge Participate at Science Jamboree

Members of the cryospheric sciences lab and of Operation IceBridge participated on June 5 in the 2012 Science Jamboree, an annual event that gives Goddard scientists and engineers a chance to share their research with other members of the Goddard community.

Scientists from the lab brought hands-on activities to demonstrate how temperature affects the speed of glaciers and how glaciologists use ice cores to study past climates.

In an adjacent table, members of two instrument teams of Operation IceBridge ran display tables with posters, photos and videos alongside a general IceBridge information display.

March – April 2012

IceBridge's 2012 Arctic Campaign

March 13 marked the beginning of Operation IceBridge's 2012 Arctic Campaign, which will last until May 25. On board of a modified P-3B plane, the IceBridge team has been conducting almost-daily missions out of Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, to measure changes in sea and land ice.

The mission has benefitted from a streak of good weather: by May 7, the IceBridge team had completed 36 science missions and flown the equivalent of traveling three times around the Earth... and they still had two more weeks to go!

MABEL Completes Its Deployment in Iceland and Greenland

The Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) Arctic deployment was a success, completing all of its planned science flights from its base in Keflavik, Iceland. MABEL is a simulator for an instrument that will be on board of NASA's IceSat-2 satellite, scheduled for launch in 2016.

Nested in the nosecone of an ER-2 plane, MABEL collected data throughout 14 flight tracks over Greenland and surrounding sea ice areas. MABEL flew several IceBridge flight lines, which will allow scientists to compare the data from the two missions.

MABEL's team members, including Cryospheric Laboratory members Kelly Brunt and Tom Neumann, also participated in a number of public outreach activities, including briefings with Iceland's president and the U.S. ambassador in Reykjavik.

New Q&A Series With Our Researchers

Glaciologist Kimberly Casey was the first lab member to be featured in a new series of interviews aimed at exploring our scientists' research goals and backgrounds. Check Kimberly's Q&A to learn how she traveled to Nepal, Svalbard and other remote corners of the Earth to investigate if satellite data can be used to map different types of glacier dust and debris. Keep tuned for new interviews!

Watch "Cold Facts: Snow Accumulation Research in West Antarctica"

Lora Koenig, a physical scientist with Goddard's cryospheric sciences laboratory, spoke about mass changes occurring over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on the March 9 Goddard Scientific Colloquium. A video of the talk, which covered Lora's team's recent snowmobile traverse in Western Antarctica to drill ice cores and collect radar data, is publicly available here.


January - February 2012

MABEL Engineering Flights

The Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) team conducted a series of engineering flights from NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility (Palmdale, CA), on 22-24 Feb., in preparation for the instrument's month-long deployment in Greenland in April.
MABEL data will provide the foundation for future Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) science. The instrument is tucked in the nosecone of an ER-2 aircraft, which also carries on its right wing a Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL), a device that measures cloud cover density. New to this deployment is the addition of a Digital Camera System placed behind the pilot. The camera will help researchers assess MABEL data in future deployments to the Arctic.

Pennsylvania Teacher to Fly with IceBridge

Tim Spuck, a high school teacher from Oil City, Penn., was selected through the National Science Foundation's PolarTREC program to work with IceBridge scientists and participate next April in survey flights during the 2012 Arctic campaign. He will be joined by two educators from Greenland and two from Denmark in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Spuck will write about his experience on the PolarTREC blog

Tom Neumann's Lecture on NASA's Polar Science

Cryospheric scientist Tom Neumann gave a public talk at Goddard's Visitor Center on March 8. About two dozen people attended the presentation, titled "Penguins, Polar Bears, and Laser Beams from Space: NASA Science at the Poles". The lecture gave an overview of the polar research carried by the Cryospheric Sciences Lab members, including the upcoming satellite mission ICESat-2.

November – December 2011

Measuring snow accumulation in Antarctica

December marked the second year of field work for the Satellite Era Accumulation Traverse (SEAT), a project led by glaciologist Lora Koenig and aimed at collecting new ice cores to extend records of snow accumulation in Western Antarctica. Koenig accompanied her team to McMurdo Station and Byrd Camp in Antarctica, to oversee the logistics of the expedition and check the scientific instruments in the field. The team collected an ice core at Byrd. Five members of the group, including Ludovic Brucker, a research associate at NASA Goddard, embarked on a snowmobile traverse. They covered 500 kilometers and collected eight more ice cores in 18 days, completing their field work on December 28.

> Check the SEAT traverse's blog

Expedition to Pine Island Glacier

An international team of researchers led by Robert Bindschadler, emeritus glaciologist with the cryospheric lab, headed in November to Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier, one of the fastest-melting spots in the southernmost continent. The group will use a combination of traditional tools and new oceanographic instruments to study how changes in the waters circulating under its ice sheet are causing the glacier to accelerate and drain into the sea.

> Read a feature on the expedition here.

IceBridge: Highlights of the 2011 Antarctic Campaign

IceBridge's 2011 Antarctic Campaign finished on November 20. The two planes participating in the campaign, NASA's DC-8 and a Gulfstream-V from the National Science Foundation, accomplished 35 science missions and spent 390 hours on the air, flying a total of 268,000 kilometers. The IceBridge team collected 165 hours of data over its target sites.

Women of Goddard book and exhibit

Goddard's climatologist Claire Parkinson co-authored a new book, "Women of Goddard". The book and its accompanying set of six posters were highlighted in November in an exhibit at the Maryland Women's Heritage Center. The book features 103 Goddard women in science, technology, engineering and math careers, including Parkinson herself and two other researchers with the cryospheric sciences lab: Lora Koenig and Nancy Maynard.

> Download the book here

September-October 2011

Third IceBridge campaign in Antarctica

Researchers with NASA's Operation IceBridge campaign began in October the mission's third year of aerial surveys of Antarctica. The team uses several remote-sensing instruments loaded into two planes, a DC-8 jet and a Gulfstream V jet. The planes fly to Antarctica from a base in Punta Arenas, Chile, and cover not only new routes, but also previous flight lines to measure how much glaciers and ice sheets have changed since the last time they were surveyed.
On Oct. 14, IceBridge scientists observed a massive crack running across the ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica. The rift indicated that the glacier, which is rapidly melting and contributing to sea level rise, is about to shed a 300-square-mile iceberg to the ocean.    

> Visit Operation IceBridge’s website for more information on the mission.

Arctic sea ice at its second minimum

Satellite data from NASA and the National Snow and Ice Data Center showed that the sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean was at its second-lowest extent on record this September. Cryospheric lab’s Joey Comiso said that the pace of the decline is also accelerating, with the older, thicker ice declining faster than the rest. Comiso’s analysis of Arctic sea ice using data from the microwave radiometer on the Aqua satellite showed that while the sea ice extent was larger than during the 2007 minimum record, the sea ice area was slightly lower than 2007 levels for about 10 days in September. Sea ice area equals the actual surface area covered by ice, while extent includes any zone where ice covers at least 15 percent of the ocean.

> Read NASA’s press release on Arctic sea ice extent minimum in 2011.

Snow cover map

Dorothy Hall and colleagues recently launched an interactive, near-real-time map of snow cover in North America. The map visualizes data from the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites and it’s updated daily. Users can zoom in on their geographical areas of interest and download images at different resolutions. Although MODIS can’t see snow cover beneath clouds, the website allows users to use filters to grey out the cloud cover or highlight the snow cover layers, to better visualize what areas are covered in snow.
> Check the Daily North American Snow Cover map.

July-August 2011

Tohoku Tsunami Created Icebergs In Antarctica

08.08.11 -- Kelly Brunt, a cryosphere specialist at Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., and colleagues were able to link the calving of icebergs from the Sulzberger Ice Shelf in Antarctica following the Tohoku Tsunami, which originated with an earthquake off the coast of Japan in March 2011. The finding, detailed in a paper published online today in the Journal of Glaciology, marks the first direct observation of such a connection between tsunamis and icebergs.

> Read the full story and watch the video here.

May-June 2011

Explore@NASA Goddard

05.09.11 -- Scientists are taking part in the open house event at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Saturday, May 14, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The event, Explore@NASA Goddard, is organized into six zones including Earth Science, where visitors can experience how NASA measures and monitors our changing Earth.

Make a stop at the Visitor Center throughout the day and use ICESat images to see how Arctic sea ice has declined in recent years. At 3 p.m., visit the Educator Resource Center (located within the Visitor Center) to chat with IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger, live from the mission’s base in Thule, Greenland. The mission’s deputy project scientist Lora Koenig, who returned from the field on May 7, will also be on hand to answer questions.

> Visit the Explore@NASA Goddard Web page for more information and to view the event program.

Goin’ ROGUE!

05.02.11 -- Scientists Matt Hoffman and Tom Neumann are in Greenland this month for the Real-time Observations of Greenland’s Under-ice Environment (ROGUE) project. The goal of ROGUE is to examine the nature and cause of short-term ice velocity changes near Swiss Camp, Greenland, by observing interactions between the ice sheet, the atmosphere and the bed. The team’s primary objective this spring is to install eight GPS stations on the ice sheet to measure how fast the ice is flowing toward the ocean. 

> Follow their adventures here.

Matt Hoffman (above) poses in front of the LC-130 that carried the team and cargo to Greenland. Credit: NASA/Matt Hoffman

March-April 2011

NASA Chat: Live From the Top of the World on Earth Day

A NASA team of Arctic explorers is in Greenland right now on an airborne science mission to keep a careful eye on changes in the ice landscape on land and sea. On Earth Day, April 22, you can chat online with NASA scientists including Lora Koenig in Kangerlussuag, Greenland, about the Operation IceBridge mission.

New! NASA's Lora Koenig and Tom Wagner answered 82 questions during the hour-long chat. Read the transcript here.

MABEL: Spring 2011

Flying on a high-altitude aircraft at the brink of space, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) instrument is helping scientists to simulate measurements from NASA's next ice-observing satellite, ICESat-2.

Last December, a Goddard-based team travelled to NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Palmdale, Calif., for MABEL's maiden voyage. The team flew five test flights at high altitudes over various terrain—ocean water, lake water, snow, salt flats, mountains and vegetated regions—to test the satellite's measurement concept.

The ER-2 pilot (above) refueled with caffeinated chocolate pudding. Credit: NASA/Tom Ryan

This spring, the team returned to Palmdale to fly MABEL again to test a new set of filters that have been added to the instrument to filter out background noise, stemming from natural sunlight. These 'etalon' filters are a critical component to MABEL's design, allowing it to fly during daylight hours.

Read about the spring flights in a blog series by Goddard's Kelly Brunt, who works on ICESat-2 at Goddard, where her duties include flight planning for MABEL.


Operation IceBridge, Arctic 2011

4.11.11 -- Researchers and flight crew arrived in Thule, Greenland, on Monday, March 14, for the start of NASA's 2011 Operation IceBridge, an airborne mission to study changes in polar ice. Plans for the Arctic campaign include surveys of sea ice, land ice and the Canadian ice caps. Teams are currently making flights from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, and will return to Thule at the end of the end of April for the remainder of the mission, which concludes on May 20.

Visit the Operation IceBridge mission page for updates, blog posts and photos.


EarthSky Interview with Robert Bindschadler

Scientists use satellites to lean about changes to Antarctica's ice, according to Robert Bindschadler, emeritus scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. He talked to EarthSky about the amazingly detailed view of the entire continent of Antarctica called LIMA, short for Landsat Image Mosaic of Antarctica.

> Listen to the interview and read the transcript here

January-February 2011

Cryospheric Sciences Seminar

Ute Herzfeld/University of Colorado

Interpolation – Simulation – Classification:
Mathematics as a bridge between Cryospheric Sciences, observations, and engineering

Building 33, Room A128
Friday, February 25, 2011
10 a.m. – 11 a.m. 

MABEL: The ICESat-2 Demonstrator

01.28.11 – The Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL) has been developed to demonstrate the photon-counting altimetry approach chosen for the ICSat-2 mission. Operating from a high-altitude airborne platform, MABEL made initial demonstration flights last month. Matthew McGill, ICESat-2 instrument scientist, presented an overview of MABEL, its integration to NASA's ER-2, and initial results today at the SED Director's Seminar hosted by the Earth Sciences Division. Read the story and slideshow captions here


Scientists in the News

01.12.11 – Research and commentary by scientists appeared in numerous media outlets in recent months. Of particular interest was the Operation IceBridge mission, which received international coverage in both English and Spanish. Here are the highlights.

Puzzle of Antarctic Ice Melt Solved, December 15; Our Amazing Planet. Ted Scambos (NSIDC), Robert Bindschdler (NASA GSFC/GEST), and Michael Studinger (NASA GSFC/GEST) presented new findings at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union that revealed new pathways for ice loss in West Antarctica.

Antarctic Sea Ice Melting as Ocean Heat Rises, December 14; Discovery News. How fast West Antarctic ice will melt and in what locations depends largely on whether upwelling warm water comes in contact with the thick ice shelf that crowds the coast and holds back the glaciers from reaching the sea, which in turn depends on the winds which drive away the surface waters and make it possible for the deeper waters to rise to the surface, said Robert Bindschadler (NASA GSFC/UMBC).

A Glory-Ous Rainbow Over Antarctica, November 18; Our Amazing Planet. In an image taken Oct. 26 by Michael Studinger (NASA GSFC) over Antarctica's Brunt Ice Shelf, a glory surrounds the shadow of the DC-8 plane that is flying NASA's IceBridge mission to survey the state of Antarctic ice; the image was taken during the first flight of IceBridge's fall 2010 campaign.

How's Antarctica Faring? Experts Fly Over Ice to Find Out, November 15; MSNBC. Now in its second year, Operation IceBridge has been measuring ice at Earth's poles; Michael Studinger (NASA GSFC/UMBC), Chris Shuman (NASA GSFC/UMBC) and Seelye Martin (U. Washington) described the research flights over Antarctica during the 2010 field season.

Meltwater from Glaciers Could Warm Ice Even More, November 9; Our Amazing Planet. Researchers at the Colorado Center for Astrodynamics Research developed a model to show that meltwater flowing through cracks in glaciers and ice sheet spends more time inside the ice than scientists realized; Tom Neumann (NASA GSFC) said the new model introduces a possible mechanism to explain how changes in surface temperature can affect temperatures deep inside thick ice.

November-December 2010

AGU Fall Meeting 2010

12.29.10 -- Personnel Scientists participated in the American Geophysical Union's Fall Meeting in San Francisco, Calif., which ran from Dec. 13-17.

IceBridge on the Big Screen

12.07.10 -- The Office of Public Affairs invites Goddard employees to attend the center's 3rd Annual Film Fest. On Wednesday, Dec. 8, catch the compilation of short videos at 1 p.m. or 1:30 p.m. in the Bldg. 3 Goett Auditorium. Now’s your chance to see how Goddard supports field experiments like Operation IceBridge and Genesis and Rapid Intensification Processes (GRIP). Enjoy amazing imagery about such projects as Firefly, MAVEN, James Webb, and more. Recognize a mission or short video by voting for your favorite. Winning videos will be announced in Dateline and will be featured on the gate signs. Go IceBridge!

Missed it? Click here to see the videos and cast your vote for “best of” in each category. Online voting closes on Wednesday, December 15.

ICESat-2 Passes Mission Milestone

12.01.10 -- On Dec. 1, the ICESat-2 team successfully completed the instrument system requirements review (iSRR). This milestone review marks the passage of the ATLAS instrument (the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System, the laser altimeter that ICESat-2 will use to measure cryospheric change) from the formulation phase into the design phase.

The successful completion of iSRR demonstrates that the team understands the challenging optical, thermal, mechanical, electrical and measurement requirements that ATLAS will have to meet, and allows the instrument team to delve more deeply into instrument design to meet these requirements. The next major review for the team will be the Preliminary Design Review in summer 2011. Congratulations!

IceBridge Returns from Antarctica

12.01.10 -- Operation IceBridge wrapped up its second Antarctic field campaign and departed from the mission's base in Punta Arenas, Chile, on Nov. 22. During the five-week campaign, teams completed 10 airborne science missions and flew 40,098 nautical miles, equivalent to flying almost twice around the Earth at the equator.

Scientists and crew flew three sea ice missions into the Weddell, Bellingshausen and Amundsen Seas early on in the season with excellent sea ice conditions. Two flights this year and one last year completed an arc around 86°S, which covers all ICESat orbits ever flown and will allow scientists to validate and calibrate seven years of the satellite's measurements. Teams flew several missions over the Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler Glaciers and along the Getz Ice Shelf that capture the area's rapid and widespread changes. A low-altitude mission into the northern Peninsula monitored several key glaciers in the area.