Peering Through Polar Ice

Peering Through Polar Ice

Scientists at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory have designed a set of ice imaging instruments small enough to hitch a ride on planes flying over both poles on routine missions. This spring, the IcePod will begin collecting data over Greenland from the wing of a New York Air National Guard LC130 plane. This winter, flights begin over Antarctica. IcePod will help scientists to understand how quickly the ice sheets are changing as climate warms and what this will mean for global sea levels.

Exploring Antarctica by Sea, Air and Land

by | 12.8.2014 at 1:26pm
Lamont scientists Robin Bell, Chris Bertinato, Nick Frearson, Winnie Chu and Tej Dhakal with IcePod.

Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory scientists are among the many researchers currently doing fieldwork in Antarctica. They’re participating in expeditions near, above and on the continent, doing critical studies that will advance understanding of Antarctica’s land and sea processes.

A Texas-Sized Block of Ice…

by | 12.4.2014 at 11:20pm
Icepod flying over the Antarctic ice towards Mt. Erebus (photo W. Chu)

The Ross Ice Shelf is the largest of the Antarctic ice shelves, measuring just under the size of the state of Texas. It is several hundred meters thick, although most of this is below the water surface. Along the ~ 600 kilometer front edge of the shelf, the ice towers up to 50 meters in height; a sheer vertical wall of white and the iridescent blue of compressed ice.

This Bird Flies South for the Winter

by | 11.24.2014 at 11:39pm
IcePod team at South Pole (left to right) Scott Brown, Chris Bertinato, Tej Dhakal, unidentified, Winnie Chu (photo by R. Bell)

Migrating south in the winter is a behavior that Antarctic scientists share with many species of birds, although the scientists fly just a bit further south. For the IcePod team it was time to join the migration so they could test their equipment in the most challenging environment the Earth has to offer.

Only 144 Miles, Yet Worlds Apart

by | 8.4.2013 at 12:25pm
LC130 at Camp Raven. (Photo M. Turrin)

144 miles separates Kangerlussuaq from Raven Camp. Not far really, just 144 miles – like traveling from the southern tip of New York City up to Albany. Flying at 270 knots we can be there in about half an hour, no time at all, and yet to the casual observer they seem worlds apart.

Gone Fishing…Took IcePod!

by | 7.30.2013 at 10:19pm
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When we sat down to map out the flight plan, our request to the crew for locating lakes met with an easy nod: No problem at all. It took only seconds to register that our definition of lakes might differ from theirs.

‘Lipreading’ the Icesheet

by | 7.29.2013 at 6:47pm
A view from the cockpit of the LC130 aircraft as it moves over the Greenland Icesheet. (Photo M. Turrin)

Even the most skilled of English language lipreaders are only able to tease apart about 30 percent of the information being shared, I read in a recent article. The author, herself deaf, noted that in some transmissions, the information capture is higher, while in others, nothing is collected. An average of 30 percent information transfer…most of us seek more information, we are curious beings. I don’t know anyone who is happy to sit comfortably saying “yes we know 30 percent, that is good enough.”

Building the Team

by | 5.14.2013 at 11:59am
The Lidar track of flight elevation collected during the GPS calibration.  The different colors represent changes in the surface elevation. The small black 'bites' in the track are where water blocks the return.

The Lamont IcePod team is a blended mix of engineers and scientists learning from each other through the design and testing of this new instrument. With a range of talents and backgrounds, the project mixes seasoned field workers with those new to field work; experienced instrument developers with those newly learning this end of engineering; and scientists with countless hours spent pouring over Greenland ice sheet data with those exploring the ice sheet for the first time. It is the opportunity for mentoring and development that comes from this mix that has made the IcePod Instrument Development Project a good fit for its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding.

Until We Get It Right

by | 4.28.2013 at 10:13pm
Sondrestrom Fjord is always breathtaking and provides a steady supply of floating ice against a warmer liquid background for testing our Infrared camera (Image M. Turrin)

When we left Stratton Air Field almost two weeks ago, I recall smiling when a mechanical issue temporarily pulled us from the aircraft and the woman shepherding us back into the waiting area remarked, “Don’t worry, we keep doing it until we get it right!” Today we are faced with just that type of day.

Weaving the Data Strands Together

by | 4.26.2013 at 9:42pm
Full moon rising over Kangerlussuag at the start of the April 26th Holiday. (Image M. Turrin)

Holidays vary around the world with their dates and traditions, so it should have come as no surprise that we would find a holiday in our scheduled Greenland visit. Today, April 26, is “Store Bededag,” which translates as “Great Prayer Day,” brought by the Danish to Greenland when they ventured to this island from their homeland.

An Ice Landing

by | 4.25.2013 at 7:18am
Setting GPS station Raven Camp, Greenland (Image M. Turrin)

Ice sheets are large enough that they can create their own weather. Large mountains of ice several miles thick, they stretch into higher elevations and gather the clouds around them. The sunny but cold weather (-21 to -9 degrees C) is a tease to the group ready each morning and waiting for clearance, day after day.