NASA’s Operation IceBridge has launched its Antarctic 2012 campaign, flying high-priority missions measuring polar ice from a base of operations at the tip of Patagonia on the Strait of Magellan. They have even made a return visit to the Pine Island Glacier, the site of last year’s discovery of a massive rift in the ice.
Sea ice doesn’t always hold the allure of a massive ice sheet, or a crevassed blue glacier spilling between mountains, but it comes in array of shapes and sizes and has its own ephemeral beauty. Operation IceBridge studies sea ice at both poles, and also runs across interesting formations on route to other targets. Operation IceBridge returned to the Pine Island Glacier twice in 2012, and NASA glaciologist Kelly Brunt discusses the implications of the glacier’s impending calving event.
Operation IceBridge has now returned to the Pine Island Glacier, not once, but twice in 2012. And the year-old giant crack in the glacier, poised to create an iceberg the size of New York City? Well it’s still there, and that iceberg has yet to break free. But the rift has grown longer, much wider, and spawned a secondary crack. Before we talk about when that mighty berg will be born, let’s take a look at the IceBridge missions themselves. IceBridge’s first return to the region was a high altitude flight over the entire region, including the Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler glaciers. After this campaign is over, scientists will be able to compare this broad survey with previous years’ measurements in order to better document the rapid and widespread changes in the region over time.