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Great day for sea-ice research as ESA and NASA work together
From Michael (NASA), over Alert, 15 April
Today’s flight was a coordinated effort between ESA’s CryoVEx campaign and NASA’s Operation IceBridge. The CryoVEx 2011 teams are currently operating from Canadian Forces Station (CFS) Alert and have installed corner reflectors and GPS buoys on the sea ice north of Alert yesterday using a Kenn Borek Twin Otter. Today and tomorrow, teams from the University College London and the University of Alberta are on the ice making in situ measurements along the profiles between the corner reflectors.
Campaign corner reflector from NASA plane (credits: NASA/Digital Mapping System)
A DC-3/BT-67 Basler from the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany participates in the experiment with a towed EM-bird for sea-ice thickness measurements and a laser altimeter. The Technical University of Denmark is operating the ASIRAS radar, the airborne version of CryoSat’s SIRAL radar on a Twin Otter.
Today, we had all four aircraft operating on the same survey line to make measurements for comparison with CryoSat-2, which was flying overhead. What a great day for sea ice research!
The NASA IceBridge teams participated by collecting data along a 0.5 km long profile, that will be surveyed tomorrow by the UCL team on the ground, which had installed the corner reflectors and GPS buoys yesterday. After transiting from Kangerlussuaq, we had enough time to fly 6 passes over the survey line making sure we got close enough within a few tens of meters to the corner reflectors. The visual aids have been invaluable and were clearly visible from 1500 ft and at 250 kts. On several of the passes we got closer than 10 meters to the corner reflectors and saw once a 25 dB increase in signal amplitude on the snow radar.
CryoVEx buoys from NASA plane (credits:NASA/Digital Mapping System)
The purpose of this experiment is to tie all the different measurements together and calibrate/validate the CryoSat-2 measurements in cold conditions over sea ice. Today’s data set of ground measurements, multiple airborne measurements with a comprehensive suite of instruments, and a CryoSat overpass will create a landmark data set to shed light on fundamental issues in remote sensing of sea ice. After finishing the 6 passes we had time to fly 60 miles of the CryoSat line before heading back to Kangerlussuaq. CryoSat-2 was passing overhead just 12 minutes before us.
Today was a great example of what can be accomplished when many organizations and nations work together. It was a great coordination effort. Well done everyone. Thanks to all the CryoVEx and IceBridge teams and Jim from Ice Shelf Alert for coordinating all the traffic in the area today.
Following the drift
From Mark at ESA-ESTEC in the Netherlands, 12 April
Thinking of the team out in the high Arctic, I've been checking up on the general ice conditions in the Arctic, and around the field site off Alert in the Lincoln Sea.
Sea-ice drift 4-11 April (credits: Eumetsat Ocean and Sea Ice Satellite Application Facility)
The first example shows sea-ice drift. This low-resolution product comes courtesy of the Eumetsat Ocean and Sea Ice Satellite Application Facility and shows sea-ice drift from 9 to 11 April. The arrows show drift direction with the length of the arrow indicating the relative drift speed.
The situation indicates that high pressure over the Beaufort Sea has spun up the Beaufort Gyre. Low pressure over Iceland is driving sea ice from east to west in the region north of Svalbard. This current situation leads to relatively benign sea-ice drift and stable ice conditions off Alert.
The second image shows 'temperature anomalies' or deviations from the monthly March mean surface air temperature in the Arctic, adapted from plots courtesy of NOAA. This indicates cooler than normal temperatures over Greenland, but slightly higher than normal seasonal temperatures in the Lincoln Sea. The general pattern over the Chukchi Sea is more dramatic, with seasonal temperature anomalies of 8°C above the long-term March average.
Air temperature anomalies March (credits: NOAA)
With air temperatures of around –27°C in Alert, this is all good news for the scientists out on the ice starting the campaign. Nevertheless, working in Arctic conditions poses huge physical and logistical challenges.
This is campaign is truly a huge effort, involving many organisations from different countries. Through this cooperation, we will be able to build up an excellent dataset to validate the measurements from CryoSat and understand exactly how Arctic ice is changing.
So from my comfortable office here in Noordwijk, I send greeting to my colleagues and wish them all the best for the coming weeks.