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. 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.

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.

Raven Camp

by | 4.22.2013 at 6:31pm
(L-R) Lamont's Scott Brown, Nick Frearson, Robin Bell discuss the camera function during flight.

Ravens dominate the Kangerlussuaq landscape. Perhaps it is their deep ebony color and solid frame, or perhaps it is the white stillness of winter with little else but humans moving about, but whatever the cause the ravens are a recognized presence. The towering black hill rising above the glacially carved fjord is aptly named Raven Hill and boasts a steady circling of the mythical black winged creatures calling out in their raspy voices. With ravens being much a part of the region, it seems only fitting that our first flight would be to Raven Camp.

Greenland Welcomes Icepod and the 2013 Science Season

by | 4.20.2013 at 9:27pm
Greenland’s west coast is lined with ice-topped mountains reaching up to touch the clouds. (photo M. Turrin)

Icepod joined the first large wave of science teams headed to Greenland via the NYANG LC130 transport system. Four LC130 aircraft were packed to bursting with pallets of equipment, supplies and science teams anxious to get to their designated research locations.

IcePod Clears Hurdles and Takes to the Air

by | 2.3.2013 at 11:14pm
Looking down on the pod from the belly of the LC130 on the first test flight. The skis of the LC130 landing gear can be seen in the top right of the photo. (photo M. Turrin)

The morning briefing room was filled with layers of engineers and technicians from the civilian side, matched with pilots, navigators and air support staff from the Air National Guard side. Spanning the middle were the two Systems Project Office (S.P.O.) representatives. Adding new instrumentation and equipment to any aircraft requires intense scrutiny, but on a military plane there are extra rounds of reviews and sign offs required.