The View Over Pine Island Glacier


From:  Steve Cole, Public Affairs Specialist, NASA Headquarters

PUNTA ARENAS, Chile — Here are some views from inside NASA’s DC-8 research aircraft during the mission’s Oct. 20 flight to Pine Island Glacier.


Monitors allowed everyone onboard to see where the DC-8 was during the nearly 11-hour roundtrip flight over Antarctica.  (NASA/Steve Cole)


Icebergs breaking off of the glacier in Pine Island Bay as the DC-8 completes one of its mapping runs over Pine Island Glacier.  (NASA/Steve Cole)


The DC-8 makes a turn over Pine Island Bay as it heads back up the glacier for another mapping run.  (NASA/Jane Peterson, NSERC)


Operation Ice Bridge project scientist Seelye Martin from the University of Washington during the flight.  (NASA/Jane Peterson, NSERC)


4 thoughts on “The View Over Pine Island Glacier”

  1. It is a sort of contradictory between the means which use for studyind the global climate changes and the pollution that this means product. No? Or all tools abord the DC8 work with alternative energy?! I want to know for understanding the true purpose. Thank you. B.

  2. Reply to B.

    You are correct in that we burn 100,000 lbs of fuel per flight to study the changes of the Antarctic ice sheet, glaciers and sea ice. Also, our instruments run on electricity that is generated by the aircraft. On the plus side, the flight lines have been carefully designed to study potential regions of rapid change, and we are conservative about the weather in which we fly, to guarantee good study conditions over the sites.

    Some perspective, however. InMay 2005, US airlines flew 850,000 commercial flights, and carried 57 million passengers. So our 17 scientific flights are a drop in the bucket compared to commercial flights. Also, what we are doing has an added value to society. For example, our gravity and ice-penetrating radars are mapping out the bed rock profiles and water filled cavity shapes beneath the Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers, which are the West Antarctic glaciers displaying the greatest mass loss. At least for the Pine Island, preliminary analysis of the bedform suggests that the glacier may be more stable than we feared. This suggests that the scientific value of what we do outweighs the carbon cost of how we do it.

  3. Hi All,
    My name is Brandon Suarez and I’m a Graduate Student at MIT studying the Architecture of NASA’s Earth Observation System.

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m following your work, its very exciting to see NASA flying aircraft to supplement and enhance spacecraft data. This is exactly the sort of thing I’ll be dedicating my Master’s thesis to.

    Continue the postings, we’re all very interested here in Cambridge, MA.

    Best of Luck,

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