State of the Planet

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A New Way to Experience Antarctica

Michael Studinger
Michael Studinger

Michael Studinger, Instrument Co-Principal Investigator, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory:

The scale and style of Operation Ice Bridge will be a new experience for me. I’ve been involved in airborne research for more than a decade using ice-penetrating radar systems, airborne laser scanning, gravity and magnetics to learn more about the polar ice caps and how they behave.

In previous expeditions we have flown over Antarctica in small Twin Otter planes and operated out of remote field camps, at high elevations and in extreme cold. This means living and working in tents for months at temperatures around -20 to -40°F and flying in unpressurized aircraft at high altitude. There are no showers and only limited communications with the outside world in these remote field camps.

The Ice Bridge campaign will be very different. We’ll be flying non-stop on NASA’s DC-8 plane in and out of Punta Arenas, Chile. It feels strange to be flying over Antarctica without actually setting foot on the continent and experiencing its cold, breathtaking beauty first hand. During Ice Bridge we will have to make do with admiring the polar landscape from a heated and pressurized aircraft cabin.

I am a research scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. My background is airborne geophysics which I use to study the ice caps and the Earth’s crust in polar regions. For Ice Bridge, I’ll be involved in measuring the Earth’s gravity field to estimate how deep the water is beneath floating glaciers along the Antarctic Peninsula.

I’m looking forward to a relaxed airborne campaign, where you leave from Punta Arenas in the morning and return to civilization in the evening.

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Maria Lynch
14 years ago

I have so many questions about the Ice Bridge campaign. How long has it been in operation? Before you how many others have been involved in this campaign? What were the outcomes?

This is all very exciting work! All the very best in your venture. I will look forward to your blog posts.


14 years ago

ICE Bridge is a new campaign launched by NASA in collaboration with Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the University of Kansas, CRESIS program. It is designed to use air flights to collect information during the time gap between the end of ICESat-I (projected 2009 expiration timeframe) and the projected launch of ICESat-II (2014-15). Since 2003 when ICESat-1 was launched, satellite data has been collected measuring ice sheet mass balance (gain and/or loss). This data is essential in allowing us to monitor and predict changes in ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice.