From the ice

It’s a wrap – airborne measurements of ice ...

From Henriette (DTU-Space), Denmark, 12 May We ended our DTU-Space part of the CryoVEx campaign on 9 May. The Norlandair Twin Otter has flown about 85 hours, covering about 20 000 km. This is about the same distance as half way around the world at the equator.  The map below shows our flight tracks. We have been able to underfly several CryoSat passes. A few of them were in formation flight with the AWI Polar-5. We have visited five main validation sites, circled in red on the map: Devon ice cap, Austfonna ice cap, the EGIG line Greenland interior, as well as sea ice north of Alert and sea ice around Svalbard...

NASA IceBridge flies Greenland EGIG line for CryoSat

From Michael (NASA), Greenland, 26 April Today was our last opportunity to fly a science mission from Kangerlussuaq and the weather was favourable for Geikie 01, our last remaining high priority mission plan. We expected some clouds over the interior of the ice sheet and down in the fjords and had to abort our flight up Nansen Fjord and Christian Gletscher because of a 3000 ft clouds base and 13 000 ft terrain. Other than that, it was a perfect day. As the photo above shows, the razor sharp flood basalts of the Geikie Plateau are spectacular. After we had finished the glacier runs around the Geikie Plateau, we went up Daugaard...

Time to bid farewell to Alert

From Katharine (UCL), Alert, 19 April Time to leave Alert now, but here's a quick update on the last couple of days here on the ice before we head off home. We were all very happy to have got the break in the weather we needed to land at our sites on the Arctic Ocean and we were even luckier that good weather continued to prevail at Alert. We were able to make it out onto the fast ice site on both the 17 and 18 April. The ice has lots of lump and bumps so some careful skidoo driving by Seymour made sure the radar got to the site in one...

Time to draw breath

From Seymour, Katharine & Rosie (UCL) in Alert, 18 April   As the main activities in Alert are winding down, it's time to draw breath before the next leg of the campaign kicks off in Svalbard and Greenland. The UCL team has been looking back at what has been achieved over the last week. After arriving in Alert, bad weather initially prevented the aircraft from flying to the experiment sites. However, a break in the weather and safe arrival of the DTU team with the precious ASIRAS instrument on 13 April meant that everything was in place to get the campaign off the ground. The break in the weather held so that they...

Mapping sea ice up close with ASIRAS

From Malcolm (ESA), Alert, 16 April As an ESA campaign coordinator, I sometimes fly along with airborne scientists and observe how data are collected and how the different instruments on the plane are run. This part of my work has always been fascinating and of great value in understanding how to run campaigns together with participants. Today, I was a guest on the Norlandair Twin Otter at Alert, Canada, carrying the CryoSat airborne simulator ASIRAS. Its cramped interior is packed with instruments and, thankfully, the odd seat for the scientists operating the instruments. In the past few days, the ASIRAS team members – guided by their friendly and experienced scientist Henriette Skourup...

Great day for sea-ice research as ESA and NASA work tog...

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. 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...

Spring cruise through the sea ice

From Angelika (NPI), Arctic Ocean north of Svalbard, 15 April    An international group of seven sea-ice scientists together with polar bear and ivory gull researchers left Longyearbyen on 4 April aboard the Norwegian coastguard vessel KV Svalbard, heading towards the sea ice north and northeast of Svalbard. With the Norwegian Polar Institute’s (NPI) brand new EM-bird on board, we plan to collect data for the CryoSat campaign in a region that is not very often visited. The EM-bird is an electromagnetic sounding instrument that we hang from a helicopter to take measurements. This one is called Liv – meaning 'life' in Norwegian. After last year’s summer cruise to the same area,...

Getting off the ground

From Katharine (UCL),  on the sea ice, 14 April Today our pilots, Troy and Derek, gave us the all clear to fly and begin our experiment for real, setting out the corner reflectors and transect lines. So, after a last check on the weather, we loaded up the Twin Otter and were airborne by about 9.00. Due to the early start I managed to sleep all the way there and woke up when I felt the plane losing altitude. Troy and Derek were circling around the ice looking for a safe place to land, where the ice was thick enough to support our weight without us ending up in the ocean beneath....

ASIRAS arrives in Alert

From Malcolm (ESA), in Alert, 13 April The whole team was more than pleased – relieved and happy might be the right description – to see Henriette and her team from the Danish Technical University arrive from Greenland today. Today's arrival of the Nordlandair Twin Otter plane in Alert marks a new and crucial phase of the CryoSat campaign. The plane carries precious cargo: the ASIRAS radar instrument which – much as the CryoSat satellite does much higher up in its orbit about Earth – emits a series of radar pulses as the plane travels over the ice and snow  surfaces and very carefully records the faint return echo from the surface. ...

Grounded

From Katharine (UCL), at Alert on 12 April Over the last two days, we haven't had the weather we were hoping for. We need clear skies so that the pilots, Troy and Derek, can find suitable landing sites on the frozen Arctic Ocean. I’m glad they have a vested interest in this, as they don’t want to end up on ice not thick enough to support the plane’s weight. Yesterday, although it was a beautiful sunny, clear day here, it was bad weather where we wanted to fly to. So we spent an afternoon on the fast ice a few kilometres from the base. Fast ice is a frozen bit of the...

Getting started

From Rosie Willatt (UCL) on the ice near Alert, 12 April Yesterday we started our experiment.  Some of the most important pieces of equipment we’ll use are corner reflectors - if you took a cube of metal and cut one of the corners off, it would form a corner reflector. These are very reflective for radars so we use them as reference points. We constructed wooden stands for the corner reflectors and took them out into the field on skidoos, to a site on the fast ice off the coast a few kilometers from Alert, near a CryoSat track. The temperature was around –30°C and the visibility was not great. We saw...

On to Alert

From Katharine (UCL) travelling between Resolute Bay and Alert, 10 April We got the all clear to leave for Alert at breakfast. So we headed for the airfield met Troy and Derek who would be our pilots for the next 10 days, loaded up the Twin Otter with our bags and climbed onboard. The conditions were beautiful, clear skies and sunshine, which gave us fantastic views of this untouched scenery – mountains covered by snow, glaciers and sea ice. Travelling on the Twin Otter to the far north is an interesting experience. We travel in full Arctic kit, firstly, as the plane is very cold when you get on (it did warm...

Not your typical Saturday afternoon

From Seymour (UCL) at Resolute Bay, northern Canada on 9 April After yesterday’s rather gentle foray onto the ice in nice weather to lay out our two practice ground targets we returned to find out exactly where we had been thanks to our GPS readings. Google maps confirmed that we had indeed been ‘walking on water’ when walking between the two sites. Before embarking on our second day trip out, and after some lengthy discussion, we decided that it would be useful to be able to see one site from the other, not so easy given the terrain and various bits of trapped bergs in the way. Justin had a 3m pole...

Up and away

From Malcolm (ESA), NL on 8 April Just leaving ESA in the Netherlands for my flight to Alert in northern Canada to start the campaign – which has to be one of the biggest I've organised in my 10 years at ESA. The two planes we have dedicated to the campaign will arrive this weekend along with other team members from Europe and Canada. So, hopefully we'll be kicking off with the first flights on Monday. We've got a Twin Otter arriving from the Technical University of Denmark that carries the ASIRAS instrument. ASIRAS is an airborne instrument that was developed specifically to mimic the radar altimeter on the CryoSat satellite. In...