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Earth Expeditions: An Active Arctic – Where Sea Ice Meets the Midnight Sun

In the early 1900s, Ernest Shackleton attempted to travel across Antarctica, but as they neared the continent his ship became stuck in an pack of sea ice and was slowly crushed before it reached the landmass. Over 100 years later and on the opposite side of the globe in the Arctic, researchers in the massive, double-hulled icebreaker, Polarstern, are also stuck in a pack of sea ice – but this time on purpose. And this ship isn’t sinking any time soon.

Earth Expeditions Blog: Operation IceBridge – Glaciers Aren't Forever

Flying a plane over Alaska’s vast landscape provides a birds-eye view of some incredible sights. Bears run across frigid streams, moose trample through mounds of snow, and golden eagles own the air above ice-capped mountains. Glaciers cut paths through these mountains, leaving lakes and rivers in their wake. These glaciers are especially interesting to scientists who want to learn more about climate change in a region that is changing more than any other.

Notes from the Field Blog: Into the Ice

Sea ice geophysicist Melinda Webster is blogging from the RV Polarstern, an icebreaker ship locked in Arctic sea ice for the MOSAiC expedition. Webster will use MOSAiC data as a blueprint to evaluate and extend the seasonal capability of data from NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite for sea ice research.

Notes from the Field Blog: Farewells

Leg 4 scientists and crew with the MOSAiC expedition have finally headed for the Arctic ice pack.

Earth Matters Blog: Research Roundup -- Depicting Change Across Earth’s Frozen Places

A series of research papers in recent months shows that we know more than ever before about the ice on our land and covering the seas. In case you missed them, here’s a look at some of the notable findings. Many are based on data from NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite, which just over a year ago released to the public more than a trillion new measurements of Earth’s height.

Notes from the Field Blog: We Go North

After 18 days in quarantine and multiple tests for coronavirus, leg 4 participants in the MOSAiC expedition head north to meet the RV Polarstern.

Notes from the Field Blog: Departure

Hi there, from 39,000’. I’m Melinda Webster, a sea ice geophysicist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute. I’m on my way to the Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate (MOSAiC) expedition as the Ice Team Lead for Leg 4. Funded under NASA’s New Investigator Program, I’ll be using MOSAiC data as the ultimate blue print to evaluate and extend the seasonal capability of ICESat-2 data for sea-ice research.

Claire Parkinson Named Finalist for Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal

Photo of Claire Parkinson On May 3, 2020, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service announced 27 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) finalists for 2020 – outstanding federal employees who serve the public good and are addressing many of our country’s greatest challenges. One of those winners is climatologist and author, Claire Parkinson of the Earth Sciences Division.

Claire was selected for her achievements in conducting breakthrough scientific research documenting how the changing sea ice covers in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans have played a significant role in climate change and for her role as Project Scientist for the Aqua satellite. Claire is one of six finalists in the Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement category.

The Sammies, known as the “Oscars” of government service, are a highly respected honor with a rigorous selection process. Congratulations, Claire!

Earth Matters Blog: Antarctic Iceberg Breaks and Makes a New Berg

Antarctic iceberg A-68A, which broke from the Larsen C Ice Shelf in 2017, has been floating solo in recent years. Not anymore. The colossal iceberg finally fractured in late April 2020, spawning a new companion named A-68C.

Notes from the Field Blog: Polar Bear Visits Polarstern

This past week we had the first polar bear sighting of leg 3. In the early morning hours, a curious male polar bear walked through the Central Observatory, checked out a few installations, played with a rubber fender, and continued on to about 800 meters from the ship.

Notes from the Field Blog: Ice Coring Mondays

The main task I am involved with here on MOSAiC is the drilling of sea ice cores. Each week, a group of 10 scientists from the Sea Ice, Ecology, and Biogeochemistry teams goes out to two different “Dark Site” locations on the floe to drill ice cores that will be used in a variety of different experiments back on the ship. We call this large weekly effort “Coring Monday.”

Science Magazine Highlights ICESat-2

ICESat-2's ability to measure bathymetry was highlighted in the 17 April 2020 issue of Science magazine.

Notes from the Field: MOSAiC Meets ICESat-2

One of my scientific objectives while on MOSAiC is to make measurements that will help validate sea ice data collected by NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite. Using a helicopter, a laser, precise GPS coordinates, and some chocolate, we were able to do just that.

Earth Day Countdown Blog: T-16–Earth’s Ice from the Air

NASA’s airborne researchers travel to some of the most remote places on the planet. For eleven years from 2009 through 2019, the planes of NASA’s Operation IceBridge flew above the Arctic, Antarctic and Alaska, gathering data on the height, depth, thickness, flow and change of sea ice, glaciers and ice sheets.

Notes from the Field: Instrument Rescue Operation

The leads that formed the last weeks throughout the floe continue to have an impact here on MOSAiC. The wide lead that split off two sites from the rest of the central observatory started to close again, forming a large ridge that threatened some of the instruments and huts that were out on the ice. Knowing that a storm could re-open the leads or force the ridge to grow even larger, we decided to hold a rescue operation to move any instruments that were too near to the ridge to safer ground.

Earth Day Countdown Blog: T-26–Snow from the Ground and Space

Snow is vital for Earth’s ecosystems and humans. It regulates temperature by reflecting sunlight and acts as insulation. When it melts in the springtime, it produces life-giving water.

Coronavirus Impacts Field Work

Goddard Space Flight Center airborne campaigns are highlighted in a recent Capital Weather Gang article in The Washington Post. The article describes the novel coronavirus's impact on scientific research and field campaigns.

Notes from the Field Blog: The MOSAiC Floe

Central to the entire MOSAiC Expedition is the MOSAiC Floe: a large sheet of sea ice that was carefully selected as the ideal place to anchor Polarstern for an entire year.

Earth Day Countdown Blog: T-38–Glaciers on the Move

Condense 48 years into six seconds, and Alaska’s glaciers move at a pace that’s anything but glacial. The rivers of ice flow and surge and shift and retreat, and time-lapse videos created from decades of satellite images track the changes over time.

Notes from the Field Blog: Farewell to Leg 2–Now Our Work Begins

Steven Fons writes the MOSAiC Leg 3 team is officially on board the Polarstern, and science activities have quickly begun.

PARCA 2020, NESOSI, Operation IceBridge Science Team & ICESat-2 for Newcomers

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) will host the Program for Arctic Regional Climate Assessment (PARCA) and NASA-ESA Snow On Sea Ice (NESOSI) meetings on Thursday, February 20, 2020. These meetings will be held in conjunction with the Operation IceBridge Science Team and ICESat-2 for Newcomers meetings, which will take place on February 21, 2020.

Notes from the Field: MOSAiC: Gearing Up for Leg Three

MOSAiC expedition scientists prepare for research aboard an icebreaker, which has been frozen into the Arctic sea ice for about three months.

Earth to Sky Connection Leads to New Perspectives on Change in Glacier Bay National Park

In spring of 2019, Earth to Sky's co-lead Anita Davis received an inquiry from Glacier Bay National Park (GLBA) rangers for new information about the changing glaciers in the park. Anita contacted Dr. Christopher Shuman (UMBC JCET), a scientist working at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Cryospheric Sciences Lab for any updates that might be provided. In turn, Dr Shuman undertook development of a 1972-2018 Landsat imagery time series depicting changes to glaciers in the park.

His analysis showed widespread glacial melt and increased debris-covered ice; flow system changes; ice front retreat; and recent landslides, some of which were news to park staff. This information and imagery were shared with the GLBA rangers in early July 2019. Park rangers used these images to describe and explore with visitors the changes happening in GLBA. One ranger stated that these images and Christopher’s assistance “completely transformed how they talk about glaciers at the park.” The dramatic changes, not particularly evident from the ground, came into sharp focus when viewed using the time series of Landsat imagery.

Earth Expeditions: IceBridge Takes Flight from Down Under

Operation IceBridge took off on the first flight of its final polar campaign Thursday, with a route designed to measure the ice in a region of Antarctica the mission had not yet explored.

Notes from the Field Blog: In Search of a New Home Across the Frozen Sea

Ten days ago the Polarstern set sail from Tromsø, traversing the remote Kara and Barents Seas and crossing just north of the islands of Novaya Zemlya and Severnaya Zemlya.
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