The IceBridge mission allows scientists to track changes in the extent and thickness of polar ice, which is important for understanding ice dynamics. IceBridge began in March 2009 as a means to fill the gap in polar observations between the loss of NASA's Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite, or ICESat, and the launch of ICESat-2, planned for 2015. Annual missions fly over the Arctic in March and April and over Antarctica in October and November.
"NASA's IceBridge mission is characterizing the changes occurring in the world's polar ice sheets," said Tom Wagner, cryosphere program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The mission's goal is to collect the most important data for improving predictive models of sea level rise and global climate change."
Researchers plan to resurvey previous flight lines and former ground tracks of ICESat while adding new areas of interest. Scientists also will target some areas that have been undergoing mysterious changes. The major glaciers in southeast Greenland once thinned simultaneously, but some of those glaciers have been thinning at an accelerated rate -- as much as 40 feet per year -- while others have thickened. And glaciers in northwest Greenland, once a stable region, have mostly begun to thin.