NASA to do summer aerial melt watch for Greenland

NASA Begins Airborne Campaign to Map Greenland Ice Sheet Summer Melt

For the first time, a NASA airborne campaign will measure changes in the height of the Greenland Ice Sheet and surrounding Arctic sea ice produced by a single season of summer melt.

NASA’s C-130 research aircraft flew from the Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., to Greenland on Wednesday (Oct 30th) where they will conduct survey flights to collect data that will improve our understanding of seasonal melt and provide baseline measurements for future satellite missions. Flights are scheduled to continue through Nov. 16.

The land and sea ice data gathered during this campaign will give researchers a more comprehensive view of seasonal changes and provide context for measurements that will be gathered during NASA’s ICESat-2 mission, which is scheduled for launch in 2016.

“The more ground we cover the more comparison points we’ll have for ICESat-2,” said Bryan Blair of Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., principal investigator for the Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor, or LVIS.

A pond of melt water on the Greenland ice sheet seen in 2008.
A pond of melt water on the Greenland ice sheet seen in 2008.
Image Credit:
NASA / Michael Studinger

Warm summer temperatures lead to a decline in ice sheet elevation that often can be significant in low-lying areas along the Greenland coast. In past years, the Jakobshavn Glacier, located in the lower elevations of western Greenland, has experienced declines of nearly 100 feet in elevation over a single summer.  Higher elevations farther inland see less dramatic changes, usually only a few inches, caused by pockets of air in the snowpack that shrink as temperatures warm.

“Surface melt is more than half of the story for Greenland’s mass loss,” said Ben Smith, senior physicist at the University of Washington’s Advanced Physics Laboratory, Seattle, and member of the science team that selected flight lines for this campaign. The rest of Greenland’s mass loss comes from ice flowing downhill into the ocean, often breaking off to form icebergs, and from melting at the base of the ice sheet.

Researchers will measure ice elevation using the LVIS laser altimeter and the LVIS-GH, a new, smaller version designed to fly on NASA’s Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle.  LVIS and LVIS-GH will measure separate but overlapping swaths of the ice from an altitude of 28,000 feet.

The C-130 carrying both instruments will fly out of Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, allowing researchers to sample both high- and low-elevation ice and a variety of geographic areas.

The NASA C-130 on the ramp after first arriving at Wallops this summer.
The NASA C-130 on the ramp after first arriving at Wallops this summer.
Image Credit:
NASA / Patrick Black

“We plan to concentrate our flights on areas northwest, southeast and southwest Greenland and the Arctic Ocean,” said Michelle Hofton, LVIS mission scientist at Goddard and the University of Maryland, College Park. “The measurements we collect along lines sampled in IceBridge’s spring 2013 Arctic campaign will allow scientists to assess changes over the summer.”

Flying from Thule also will allow mission scientists to gather data on Arctic sea ice shortly after it reaches its annual minimum extent. This will help researchers get a clearer picture of what happens over the summer. It also will help researchers gather new data on snow covering sea ice when combined with information collected by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 polar-monitoring satellite. LVIS detects the snow surface while CryoSat’s radar sees through snow to find the top of the ice. Researchers can combine these measurements to calculate snow depth.

“This will be crucial for assessing the snow cover on sea ice during a very different time of year,” said Nathan Kurtz, sea ice scientist at Goddard.

For more information about NASA’s IceSat-2 satellite, visit:

http://icesat.gsfc.nasa.gov/icesat2

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cynical_scientist

More data is always useful. I wish however that they’d also look at the gain over winter and run this for several seasons not just one. Knowing how much ice is lost over summer seems to me to be good for not much other than generating alarming headlines. Ice is lost over summer and gained over winter. What matters is the balance between loss and gain and the resulting year on year change.

Brian H

And should it happen that ice is added over the course of the year?

Rob Dawg

Of all the places one can visit over one season out of the year only and get an erroneous picture this would rank high.

Steve Oregon

Oh yes this really matters. We can never have too much monitoring.
Looky here there’s stuff happening.
Imagine the good it will provide. I’m weeping with anticipatory gratitude.
And to think NASA used to waste their time going to the Moon. Idiots.
OK seriously now…Get real. More data is NOT always useful, That’s asinine.
There are countless heaps of useless data piled up in countless bureaucracies.
My great grandfather Al even had something to say about it.
Albert Einstein quote: “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

graphicconception

I would put money on the fact that the next set of data will be “unprecedented” – and very probably the one after that as well!
Not to mention: “Worse than we thought”.

rogerknights

Maybe a drone could do some of this work?
Say, how about a drone or two in Antarctica?

JimS

I always found the story of the lost squadron buried under 260 feet of Greenland ice after 40 years, quite interesting:
http://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/04/us/world-war-ii-planes-found-in-greenland-in-ice-260-feet-deep.html

Bennett In Vermont

Steve Oregon at 8:05 pm:
I agree. These folks have ” a nice cushy government job”, and the crap they churn out means there’s a McDonald’s somewhere missing a backup burger flipper.

Janice Moore

Thanks for sharing that, Jim S (at 8:46pm today). Indeed, very interesting.
Hm. I just wonder how that ice got there? (eye roll)

Brian R

I predict that after just a single season of measurements the reports will use words like “Unprecedented” and “Catastrophic”.

Cynical Scientst

Another point of puzzlement: I can see how measurements like this might help calibrate and provide a baseline for an operational satellite; it is always useful to compare what the satellite sees with what things look like from lower down. But I can’t see how this is going to help provide a baseline for satellites that have yet to be launched.
Is the real purpose simply to generate headlines and demonstrate relevancy in the face of possible budget cutbacks?

Barbee

NASA to dream up new and exciting ways to piss away your tax dollars.
And you had better LIKE it too! You racist, intolerant, anti-science neanderthal…..

dp

It would be better if a non-biased non-CAGW advocacy agency did this data gathering but I can’t think of any within the government.

Hoser

Ooh, they’ll shoot lots of new, even scarier, pictures for Uncle Al Gore. Now why doesn’t the former VP pay for that fuel or take it out of his stash at Occidental Petroleum? If he really believed in the dangers of carbon pollution, I would expect him to speak out against these flights. Fat chance.

Don

Apologies in advance, as I am relatively new to all of the sea ice charts and so forth. But, I must ask, would it not have been more useful to have done this in mid-September? It appears the ice is rebuilding from late September onward.

wayne

They are already too late for such a study looking for net melt and will only be wrong since they can report nothing truthful anymore.

philincalifornia

I’m guessing that at least 1,000 people who read this site could write the Abstract, Introduction and Conclusion to this scientific “inquiry” already ….. and probably, ahem, excuse me, the errrrrmmmm “Experimental Section” too !!! Whoooo hoooo. Massive ice loss in Greenland ……..
Forget it frauds. Don’t even bother getting cold. No one, other than your fellow Thespians, believes you any more ……….

Richard111

Oct 30 to Nov 16 ???? Ice melting???

markx

It is interesting that published satellite measure of ice extent, ice loss and sea levels all supposedly have sub-millimeter resolution, but now we need some airborne radar to help calibrate it all?
Anyway, more data should be a good thing.

rogerknights said:
November 4, 2013 at 8:32 pm
Maybe a drone could do some of this work?
Say, how about a drone or two in Antarctica?
——————————————————
There’s lotsa drones in the obama administration, but I doubt they do much work.
Only a drone or two? I say we ship ’em ALL to Antarctica – obama too!

I like the dates…
It is not at all a bad idea to gather data, even suspect data. Who knows, it might become routine and the we’ll know a little more than we do now. Always a good thing.

4TimesAYear

“Warm summer temperatures lead to a decline in ice sheet elevation that often can be significant in low-lying areas along the Greenland coast. In past years, the Jakobshavn Glacier, located in the lower elevations of western Greenland, has experienced declines of nearly 100 feet in elevation over a single summer.”
Yeah, well while it’s melting in one place it’s being deposited in another. What goes up must come down. I suggest they check Antarctica for the balance of the equation.

Adam

So long as they offset their carbon – otherwise they might *cause* the ice to melt!

tty

If these guys think they can gather data on ice-melt on the Greenland ice-cap in November they are in for a surprise. The melt season is long over and fresh snow is accumulating all over the ice-cap.

KNR

Interesting to see how they will cope with the constant changes in altitude the plane will experience on any ‘straight and level run’ which when your looking in details these runs are not.
Still I should image the modellers are all ready to carry-out any ‘ needed adjustments ‘

bullocky

‘Brian H says:
November 4, 2013 at 7:53 pm
And should it happen that ice is added over the course of the year?’
The collected data may need adjusting.
:
:

Fernando (in Brazil)

The central idea is;
No matter the size of the area the important thing now is the volume.
“This will be crucial for assessing the snow cover on sea ice during a very different time of year,”
convenient adjustment …. GISP 2 ..
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/12/09/hockey-stick-observed-in-noaa-ice-core-data/
LVIS detects the snow surface
Elvis, the beagle who detects polar bear pregnancies
http://cdn.spundge.com/stories/9760/embedded/

oppti

Greenland has a mass balance of perceptation of +400 mm each year more or less:
http://www.dmi.dk/groenland/maalinger/indlandsisens-massebalance/

Alan Robertson-

Realizing that it isn’t time for the Friday Funnies, maybe I can understand this bit of news as just an absurdity.

ROM

Unfortunately I also after all the immense waste and the suffering that has been created by the nosferatu’s of global warming / climate change and their golems in every branch of science, environmental organisations, bureaucracies and politics, am just plain cynical about the motives behind this particular very obvious and very well publicised display of supposed science in an area that has attracted great attention and much in the way of very corrupted science over the last few years.
Nothing like a good beat up of some supposedly precious science to ensure future funding, is there?
Ten million little kids die each year from illness and disease
A large proportion of those deaths are avoidable. About a quarter of the children’s deaths are due to vitamin A deficiency which leads to an impaired immune system which severely reduces the immune systems ability to fight off various common diseases and illnesses.
Vitamin A deficiency also leads to and vision problems and even blindness.
Golden Rice which has the beta cartotene genes from maize / corn and from a common soil bacteria has been developed by the International Rice Institute [ IRI ]in the Philippines that provides about 60% of an individuals daily needs of Vitamin A if they consume about 100 to 150 grams a day of Golden Rice
http://www.goldenrice.org/.
The now increasingly thuggish and piracy promoting Greenpeace [ see what the Russians think of greenpeace with about 30 of their anti oil drilling pirate thugs possibly about to serve a decade or so sentence in russian jails ] and other anti GM food groups have fought the release of Golden Rice for more than a decade just because it is supposedly a GM developed food crop.
Some millions possibly tens of millions of little kids and adults with severe ilnesses from Vitamin A deficiency have died needlessly because of greenpeace’s constant attacks and it’s constant and debased harassment of food crop researchers and breeders and it’s constant legal actions to stop the release of Golden Rice
So why not take NASA’s money from what is basically a fairly useless exercise in developing what is likely to be some again much quote and bigoted science from NASA over Greenland’s ice and use it to both boost the researchers at the International Rice Institute [ IRI ] where the Golden Rice was developed and bred and use that money from NASA’s pleasant little excursion into the wastes of Greenland in air conditioned aircraft comfort to promote and spread the use of Golden Rice and to smash the constant and now increasingly evil influences of greenpeace’s constant barrage of legal actions and the regular ripping up of new crops that are being bred to help the poorest of mankind have a reasonable chance of escaping both hunger and ill health.
Frankly after many years of being associated with and knowing some of Australia’s crop plant breeders and their dedication and skills, in terms of those plant breeders importance to our human race’s future by the breeding of the crops that will ensure humanity’s increasing numbers will still be adequately fed over the next 2 or 3 decades, one good plant breeder is worth some hundreds of climate scientists when their importance to our race’s future is measured.
But in the usual stupid ass about way we humans seen regularly indulge in, we pay totally incompetent and often corrupt climate researchers much more than we do a good food crop plant breeder.
Maybe we will finally realise just how important food crop plant breeders really are if we get a couple of decades of much colder global temperatures.
As a now retired farmer, give me warmer temperatures and more CO2 and we can still feed the world’s growing numbers.
Give me lots more CO2 and even in a colder world we perhaps , “perhaps ” is the operative word here, we, the world’s farmers will still be able to feed the world, just !
Give the world’s farmers a colder world and lower CO2 and somebody somewhere ,perhaps millions will starve and possibly die as global crops start to fail and yields start to fall..
That is the curse of a colder climate written in the annals of history countless times past.
For god’s sake wake up and spend NASA’s unearned largesse where it counts, on the future of our race by ensuring adequate food for all into the future and by helping millions of little kids to grow up to be healthy adults, confident of their future..

Eliza

What a waste of time and money

David Jones

ROM says:
November 5, 2013 at 1:53 am
“For god’s sake wake up and spend NASA’s unearned largesse where it counts, on the future of our race by ensuring adequate food for all into the future and by helping millions of little kids to grow up to be healthy adults, confident of their future.”
.
And, today, India which spends $1 billion p.a. on it’s space program, is sending a “probe” to Mars “to assess the amount of methane” in the Mars atmosphere. According to the UN Development Program, 37% of Indians live below the poverty line. The Times of London reports today in a Leader “There are more poor people in the eight poorest Indian states than in all of the 26 poorest African countries combined.” “One in three of the world’s malnourished children is Indian.”
How important, really, is the amount of methane on Mars to India?

jefftfred

@ Eliza:
Maybe we could save NASA the aviation fossil fuel and the “CO2 produced” by sending them the co-ordinates of Summit Station, located at the peak of the Greenland ice cap at 72°35’46.4″N 38°25’19.1″W, 10,530 ft (mean sea level) elevation.
Or they could have a look at the webcam:-
http://www.summitcamp.org/status/webcam/

Pierre DM

Well it looks as if they have certainly biased the sampling by cherry picking the times and the routes flown. They will no doubt apply the findings to the entire ice sheet and bias the satellite as well. The results will be wide open to criticism.
I would guess that the equivalent would be flying over the Mojave desert collecting data in October and inferring the results to represent the North American continent.

Jeff

I can see the abstract even now. “Unprecedented…Worst melting ever recorded…If this melt rate continues, Greenland will be ice-free by January…Even worse than we thought…” We should spoof this thing right now, save NASA the effort. Or at least have predictions to compare to the eventual paper.

Bill Illis

1000 flights per day over 10 years could cover off the large error margin in the altimetry measurements combined with the large area of Greenland. How many planes are they going to use.
As we have found with the Cryosat and sea level satellites, the raw data is never good enough with altimetry methods to produce reliable measurements.
One little error-filled swath of data at one point in time will tell you nothing.

@ JimS & Janice Moore, thanks for reminding me of “Glacier Girl”:

Andrew Harding

Why is the National AERONAUTICS and SPACE Administration measuring ice on Greenland?

Glacier Girl…
I wonder how deep under the ice the 5 other P-38s are now. (and the 2 B-17s) Now that would be an interesting story. An average build up of 6′ of ice per year in 1992, – how much more ice has accumulated on top of them?
Photo:
http://cdn2.warhistoryonline.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/P-38.jpg

ROM

For those who haven’t or don’t read the well known and quite excellent UK’s Bishop’s Hill blog by Andrew Montford, this little gem which seems likely to fit this NASA / Greenland stunt like a glove was posted on Nov 1st;
Quote of the day, research edition
Nov 1, 2013
Education Quotes
“In the modern British university, it is not that funding is sought in order to carry out research, but that research projects are formulated in order to get funding. I am not joking when I say that a physics lecturer called Einstein, who just thought about the Universe would risk being sacked because he brought in no grants.”
From a letter to the Times by Prof Sir Fergus Millar.

A prediction – if the melt is smaller than hoped for, then all of the data will be deleted and you will never hear a word about this “study” again.

Nial

How much is this going to cost?
I wonder how much it costs to keep that aircraft in the sky for an hour? >:-0

cedarhill

More money we don’t have spent so the Administration can announce next year another “new study” means they must pass the carbon tax. We’d all be better off if they just wrote the report today and went on sequester.

Steve from Rockwood

KNR says:
November 4, 2013 at 11:48 pm
—————————————-
The aircraft will have both a GPS (height above sea level) and radar altimeter (height above ground). The difference between the two gives a model of the elevation of the ice/land.
Hopefully they don’t just cover areas they know are experiencing higher melt rates.

Owen in GA

Adam says:
November 4, 2013 at 11:27 pm
So long as they offset their carbon – otherwise they might *cause* the ice to melt!

Actually I would be more concerned about the age and model of the engines on that Hercules they are flying. The older -7 engines had a lot of unburned carbon in the exhaust stream which if it precipitated onto the ice sheet really could accelerate the melting. Black Carbon is far worse than CO2 ever dreamed of being in ice melt terms. The problem is even worse if they are using one of the hip new “biofuels” in them. The planes I’ve seen flying that stuff smoke like a chimney with incomplete combustion products galore.

Eustace Cranch

260 feet of ice in 46 years. Wow. it’ll take a lot of melting to undo that.

Tom J

‘Warm summer temperatures lead to a decline in ice sheet elevation that… In past years, the Jakobshavn Glacier, located in the lower elevations … has experienced declines of nearly 100 feet in elevation over a single summer. Higher elevations farther inland see less dramatic changes, usually only a few inches, caused by pockets of air in the snowpack that shrink as temperatures warm.’
I’ll admit to not being knowledgeable about these things but 100 feet of ice melt sounds a wee bit extreme. If this is true, and what do I know, I would think that ice sculptures would melt in a matter of minutes and nobody would ever adorn a conference or dinner with such a thing. By the way, is an “ice sheet” the same as a “snowpack”?
‘“Surface melt is more than half of the story for Greenland’s mass loss,” said Ben Smith, senior physicist … The rest of Greenland’s mass loss comes from ice flowing downhill into the ocean, often breaking off to form icebergs, and …’
Wow, after all these years we’ve finally had the loss of the Titanic explained.

Phil.

J. Philip Peterson says:
November 5, 2013 at 3:59 am
Glacier Girl…
I wonder how deep under the ice the 5 other P-38s are now. (and the 2 B-17s) Now that would be an interesting story. An average build up of 6′ of ice per year in 1992, – how much more ice has accumulated on top of them?

More to the point where are they? We know that in the 45 years before they were located that they had moved about two miles from the crash site, in the 25 years since perhaps another mile downslope?

Rick Lynch

How much CO2 is being released by this aerial mapping?

Greg Goodman

The photo of the melt pool is interesting , very deep blue.
Allowing for camera colour balance etc., that still indicates most of the short wavelength light ( implying UV) is still getting reflected, with the red-I.R end getting selectively absorbed.
There has been much talk of accounting for melt ponds in models of Arctic ice, with suggestions that surface water on ice adds a strong positive feedback by absorbing incoming solar and thus causing more melting.
By the time you have also accounted for the increased I.R. emissivity of water compared to ice, it is not clear which way the balance will go.