Polar Perspective: NASA DC-8 Monitors Antarctica's Meltdown from the Skies

Flights aim to record and understand rapid melting in Antarctica and Greenland
1 of 6


The vast ice sheets of Antarctica and Greenland have undergone a precipitous meltdown in recent decades. Some areas of Antarctica being surveyed by ICE Bridge flights are sinking by as much as nine meters a year.....[ More ]


The ICE Bridge DC-8 aircraft is packed full of scientists and science equipment, carrying as many as 21 passengers at time as well as a full complement of a gravity-measuring accelerometer, laser altimeters, radar systems and air-sampling equipment.....[ More ]


Icebergs calve off the edge of the Getz Ice Shelf, as seen here in a picture from the ICE Bridge aircraft. Such calving seems to have accelerated in recent years—and entire ice shelves have disintegrated and floated away within days.....[ More ]


ICE Bridge flights over the next six years will fill in for satellite measurements as well as offer a different look at, as well as opportunity to use radar on, polar ice systems.....[ More ]


The polar expeditions depend on this retrofitted DC-8 aircraft. Of course, the kind of heavy snow pictured here can interfere with the flights; a planned excursion the following morning had to be canceled because too much snow had accumulated on the wings for takeoff.....[ More ]


During its first flight on October 16, the ICE Bridge team took this picture of the Getz Ice Shelf along Antarctica's Amundsen Coast from an altitude of at least 6,100 meters.

By flying two parallel tracks along the coast—one just off shore over the floating ice shelf and one just inland—to take measurements on either side of the "grounding line" between the floating and land ice, scientists can determine the rate at which this near-shore part of the ice shelf is melting.....[ More ]

risk free title graphic

YES! Send me a free issue of Scientific American with no obligation to continue the subscription. If I like it, I will be billed for the one-year subscription.

cover image Subscribe Now
Share this Article:

Email this Article