Posting in Design
At the polar ice caps, NASA scientists are studying global warming from the air. We talk with Steve Hipskind, chief of the agency's Earth Sciences division, to learn more.
In the past couple of years, massive chunks of ice have broken off of Antarctica, stoking fear that the polar ice caps -- the North and South poles, Arctic and Antarctic -- might one day completely collapse.
Vulnerable and rapidly changing, Antarctica alone is already contributing a third of the total rise in global sea level.
Needless to say, monitoring the state of the ice caps is particularly important.
That's why NASA is keeping a close eye on the polar ice caps. But this time, the agency is doing so right here from earth. SmartPlanet interviewed Steve Hipskind, chief of NASA's AMES Earth Sciences division, about NASA's mission, called Operation Ice Bridge.
This past February, NASA's satellite for monitoring climate change from space -ICESat-1- ended. (ICESat stands for Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite. A second one will be launched in five years).
To kill time until then, the agency came up with Ice Bridge.
The operation is the "largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted," according to the agency. It will give us a three-dimensional idea of what is happening to the polar ice caps.
To pull off this mission, the agency has been using NASA's DC-8 aircraft to monitor the health of the glaciers and sea ice, hoping to keep tabs on global warming. The seats of the plane were removed to make room for scientific instrumentation.
Recently, the plane arrived in Punta Arenas, Chile, so it could begin to collect data over parts of Antarctica.
For a complete overview, be sure to watch the video.
Here are some excerpts from the interview:
SmartPlanet: What happened to IceSat-1? And how did Operation Ice Bridge begin?
SH: We realized we needed to maintain the continuity of the measurements of the polar ice caps to monitor what was going on with climate change. Although IceSat 1 exceeded its design lifetime, it ended operations earlier this year in February and we realized we needed to replace those operations.
We didn't have our next satellite mission scheduled until 2015. And we really needed to fill in the gaps in fact. The thing that made the most sense was to just go after these measurements with the aircraft.
Operation Ice Bridge is basically the five-year, NASA airborne campaign to fill in the data over the polar ice caps between the loss of the first IceSat and the launch of IceSat-2.
SmartPlanet: Can you tell us more about Operation Ice Bridge?
SH: We are basically going up to the Arctic and the Antarctic on an annual basis. Currently, we are using what we call the conventional aircraft. We have just started flying a very large un-piloted aircraft, which allows us to have a much longer flight duration.
We can cover more ground, but it also adds a level of safety so we are not putting people in harms way. Some of the places we go to have some of the most severe climates on the planet.
So what you see behind me is actually what we call the Sierra Aircraft. It is a very small un-piloted aircraft. But NASA is all about developing the technologies to make these observations.
SmartPlanet: What information can a plane be sent out to observe?
SH: What satellites give you is the global perspective. They can take measurements on a continuing basis. With the aircraft, we have to be much more focused as the areas don't cover as wide as a geographical area. But what we can do with the aircraft is go into areas that we have seen changing the most rapidly and then get a much more detailed, more spacial and temporal measurements over specific areas of the ice.
We are particularly flying over Antarctica and looking at the ice glaciers that have been changing most rapidly. Those glaciers are flowing into the ocean and the concern right now is that some of the glaciers seem to be accelerating in their flow and losing ice volume in the process.
SmartPlanet: Why are you looking to measure the volume of the ice?
SH: The key data we are collecting is the total volume of ice. By making measurements from year to year, we are looking at the time rate of change on what's going on with the ice. You know if the ice is accumulating or if it is melting.
SmartPlanet: What is DC-8? Can you tell me more about the mission?
SH: The DC-8 is our flying laboratory. It is a very large commercial aircraft. We basically take out all of the seats and replace it with scientific instrumentation.
On this mission, we have a variety of laser instruments. There are laser altimeters. We can get very accurate measurements of what the ice surface topography is, so we can look for changes from year to year. But we have a variety of radar instruments that actually penetrate the ice and look at the underlying surface topography that is underneath the ice and that is key because we need to know what the surface of the ground is so we can feed that into computer models.
The DC-8 is a unique platform in that it is highly modified. It has windows on the belly of the aircraft as well as on the top of the aircraft. So we have instruments that we can look down and look up. In the case of these missions, we are really looking down on the ice. We also use window ports to bring in air samples on other missions so at times the DC-8 looks like a Christmas tree because it has so many sensors hanging outside of the aircraft.
SmartPlanet: What is the point of Operation Ice Bridge?
SH: We hope to understand the details of what is going on in both the Arctic and Antarctic to really understand the impact of warming temperatures and how that is going to impact the ice sheets. The polar caps have the largest reservoir of fresh water on the planet. If you start melting that from the surface of the land, the concern is that you are going to raise the sea level.
Photo: NASA/Tom Tschida
Nov 29, 2010
...if they don't allow the complete, original, and "unadjusted" collected dataset to be available for peer review, then that is exactly what I'd argue.
Well John, you surprised me. After all, isn't this just another part of the worldwide conspiracy to only fund research that supports global warming? Since they are doing the research from an airplane and can't cover Antarctica completely it allows them to cherry pick only areas that support their theory. Anyway, I imagine that's what people on your side of the issue will say when the research continues to support current climate and global warming theory. I'm assuming the Antarctic paradox you are referring to is the increase in sea ice extent but as I pointed out above to Hates Idiots that does nothing to disprove global warming.
...as it's far more likely to expose the AGW agenda than support it. Considering the paradoxes that already exist in the Antarctic, I'm almost surprised it even got funded.
Check out this animated link showing ice movement in the arctic over time: http://www.arctic.noaa.gov/detect/ice-seaice.shtml Clearly, it is not a stretch to see how a ship could be transported long distances due to arctic ice movement before it sinks to the ocean floor. Where it is found has very little correlation to where it was in open water.
HI, (#18) First of all, I don't believe that I have ever said that the Medieval Warm Period did not exist, just that it wasn't as big a deal as you want it to be. The long-wave radiation you are so concerned about has nothing to do with the ozone hole and nothing directly to do with solar radiation. Long-wave radiation is in the infrared range. Incoming solar radiation is primarily in the visible light range. The long-wave radiation Zhang is talking about comes from energy re-radiated after being captured by greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Ozone depletion actually decreases it since ozone is a GHG. Increasing CO2 in the atmosphere is the primary driver of increasing downward long-wave radiation. If the HMS Investigator is fully intact then why did it sink in the first place? The McClure expedition apparently entered Mercy Bay as the start of their 2nd winter and the following years were cold enough that ice in the bay never released the ship again. The ship was abandoned on June 3, 1853 after contact with the HMS Resolute. I imagine what happened was after the ship was abandoned and the crew was no longer making efforts to keep it intact in the ice that the hull was breached without destroying the superstructure and then enough ice melted for it to sink without a lot of further damage. Who said that places like Mercy Bay have never been unfrozen since before the last glaciation? Winds and ocean currents have been creating areas of open water all over the Arctic for as long as I'm aware of. Implying that scientists have said there is never thawing and open water in an area is just a strawman for your assumptions. Besides, it's still a frozen wasteland up there, just not quite as frozen as it used to be. ;)
Zhang says that increased levels of long radiation getting through the hole in the ozone layer are warming the water. His words, not mine. Strike 1. It is interesting that the Investigator was found intact and upright on the bay bottom. If the sea ice had dragged the ship, as you claim, it would have been broken up. Your statements are inconsistent with the science and the history. Strike 2. Interesting statement on Canadian sea ice, but again you are being completely inconsistent with what the global warming scientists have been saying for several years. They claim that places like Mercy Bay have never been unfrozen since before the last ice age. Did you look at a map of how far north Mercy Bay is? It is close to or above the Artic Circle. The global warming crowd has been telling us this area has been a frozen wasteland for millennia until man made global warming melted things. Strike 3. You are out. One last question. When did you start believing in the Medieval Warming Trend? You and others have been calling me a liar every time I bring it up and now you are referencing it. There may be hope for you yet.
HI, (#16) The ozone hole has nothing to do with warmer water. The lack of ozone in the stratosphere over Antarctica actually cools the stratosphere which strengthens the circumpolar winds. Those stronger winds affect the existing sea ice by pushing it around and opening up polynya's leaving more open water to subsequently freeze over thus expanding the area of sea ice. The Southern Ocean consists of a layer of cold water near the surface and a layer of warmer water below. Water from the warmer layer rises up to the surface, melting sea ice. However, as air temperatures warm, the amount of rain and snowfall also increases. This freshens the surface waters, leading to a surface layer less dense than the saltier, warmer water below. The layers become more stratified and mix less. Less heat is transported upwards from the deeper, warmer layer. Hence less sea ice is melted. Of course liquid water can never exist at 10F or 20F without the addition of lots of antifreeze. I was talking about air temperatures. The HMS Investigator was abandoned after 3 years of being trapped in the ice and making little headway. The ice it was trapped in could have carried it to its current location. The McClure Arctic Expedition is pretty well documented: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McClure_Arctic_Expedition While there was much interest in the northwest passage as a trade route in the 1800's but the first documented time it was navigated by boat alone was by Roald Amundsen from 1903-1906. Notice it took him 3 years. It's possible that it could have been open during the Medieval Warm Period summers but there is no credible documentation of that. Large stretches of the northern Canadian shoreline are normally ice free during the late summer/early fall but that doesn't mean there is a clear passage through it.
Your example of warming water does not support his argument. His point is that the warmer water, caused by increased solar radiation through the ozone hole, is a contributing factor to the ice MELTING. So warm water, above 32 degrees, is melting the ice. Warm air further hastened the ice melt. Which means your example of water warming from 10 degrees to 20 degrees is not consistent with his research or his reports conclusions. As I said, the report is full of contradictions. On the Artic ice melt in the 1850s, you can start with reading up on the British ship Investigator. It was found at the bottom of Mercy bay this past summer. Archeologists wondered how the ship got into a bay. They were wrong in assuming that the bay had been frozen solid since before the last ice age until the recent melting. Research led them to find that the Royal Navy had made many expeditions into the Northwest Passage during a period of major ice melts first reported in the 1700s. The ice out lasted well into the late 1860s. Apparently large stretches of northern Canada?s shoreline were ice-free during the summer months for most of the 1800s. Several groups of ships explored the northern ocean during this time, not just the Investigator. The story of the search for the Investigator is epic unto its self. After their ship sank the crew managed to live off the land for about 2 years until a rescue ship found them. Why the ship sank was unclear in the early information I saw in September. As mentioned the ship was found this summer so details are still being researched.
HI, (#12) They promised the hole in the ozone would close after they banned CFCs. Were they wrong on what caused the hole in the ozone? You lack perspective. Things like this aren't automatically cured overnight. The ozone depletion/Antarctic ozone hole problem has stopped getting worse but it will be another 50 years or so before the CFS's that were emitted before they were banned are cleared from the atmosphere and the ozone layer is back to where it was. Also, the ban was staged with places like the US being the first to implement it and I think it only finally went into effect for every nation on the planet just recently. (#14) (Your) Translation = warmer air melts more ice. No, translation = less ice is made because of warmer temperatures so less salt is rejected from freezing sea water making the upper ocean density and salinity less than it would otherwise be. (Your) Translation = warm air melted the ice and warmed the top water. The warm top water now fails to mix with the warm lower water. Again, the issue is that less new ice is formed, not that more is melted. (Your) Translation = All of this warm air on the surface and warm water at multiple layers of the ocean makes the sea ice melt LESS. Warm and warming are relative terms. If the temperature increases from 10F to 20F it has warmed but the temperature is still below the freezing point of water. Salt rejection from freezing salt water makes perfect sense. When you freeze saltwater the salt in it gets rejected and the ice you get is essentially fresh water. That rejected salt goes into the still liquid sea water increasing its density and salinity. Denser water on top of less dense water will help enhance convective overturning. Nice change of subject there, switching to the Arctic. The fact is that there is not a lot of detailed information about the Arctic ice pack before nuclear submarines started taking measurements in the 1950's. I don't think there is a tremendous amount of evidence for a massive ice melt in the Arctic in the 1850's. Please point me to some evidence of it.
Zhangs argument makes no sense. This is the statement paragraph on page 1 of the 2007 report. I broke the paragraph into 3 parts because lumping his conclusions into a big run on paragraph hides the contradiction in his babble. - The model shows that an increase in surface air temperature and downward longwave radiation results in an increase in the upper-ocean temperature and a decrease in sea ice growth, leading to a decrease in salt rejection from ice, in the upper-ocean salinity, and in the upper-ocean density. - Translation = warmer air melts more ice. - The reduced salt rejection and upper-ocean density and the enhanced thermohaline stratification tend to suppress convective overturning, leading to a decrease in the upward ocean heat transport and the ocean heat flux available to melt sea ice. Translation = warm air melted the ice and warmed the top water. The warm top water now fails to mix with the warm lower water. - The ice melting from ocean heat flux decreases faster than the ice growth does in the weakly stratified Southern Ocean, leading to an increase in the net ice production and hence an increase in ice mass. - Translation = All of this warm air on the surface and warm water at multiple layers of the ocean makes the sea ice melt LESS. Double talk. Utter nonsense. FYI Zhang. Salt rejection is a measurement applied to osmosis filters. It is not usually used in discussions on open water salt concentrations. To discuss the dilution of the sea salt by the melting of freshwater ice into salt water would be a more accurate discussion. A person with a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, a Masters in Ocean engineering and a PHD in Oceanography should know this. It is also interesting that this scientist focuses on ice patterns since the 1960s. The one paper he co-wrote on Artic warming trends over the past 100 years openly admits to discarding data that is not consistent with an earlier article on warming trends written by a coauthor. None of his research covers the massive ice melt seen during the 1850s when the infamous Northwest Passage was almost real. It was completely ignored because it did not fit their discussion. Discarding inconvenient data. Where have we heard this before? Oh yes. East Anglia.
webhead (#10), You are right, mother nature is just responding to the increase in CO2 in the atmosphere with a fever. The fact that the increase in CO2 is because of human burning of fossil fuels is beside the point. /sarcasm Current estimates for the beginning of the next glaciation (ice age to you) is about 20,000 years from now. It's not anything that anyone alive today needs to be very concerned about. You are right though that if we removed all CO2 from the atmosphere we would spiral down to freezing temperatures in a short time. No one has proposed that. It's enough to just stop adding more CO2 all of the time.
-Ozone levels over Antarctica have dropped causing stratospheric cooling and increasing winds which lead to more areas of open water that can be frozen (Gillet 2003, Thompson 2002, Turner 2009).- They promised the hole in the ozone would close after they banned CFCs. Were they wrong on what caused the hole in the ozone? Are they they same people behind the myth of global warming?
Kudos to webhead, but you forgot to mention the brutal winter in the southern hemisphere this year. Fish kills in the river Platte, snow on the beaches of Rio. Cold weather kills 500 penguins in Cape Town. Now look across the pond at the British Ilse's, record low temps, snow piling up. Trondheim Norway has just broke a 222 year old record for the coldest temperature ever. I can not read Norwegian, but some one may have the software to translate----http://www.storm.no/nyheter/kulderekorden-ble-knust-3353713.html--Yea, it's all in the models, it's suppose to be happen this way, yadda, yadda, yadda. Now I'll close my two cents worth with, the west coast was cooler than normal this past summer, but the lying NOAA claimed the summer was the warmest ever. PPS; This is still fall, so only bad things could be headed for the northern hemisphere this winter.
there is no such thing as global warming ,the real name is called mother nature, and also we are going into an ice age not a warming age that has gone ,dont you people read what the sunspots are doing ?,we are due an ice age and it is on its way first come floods then comes the snow then comes the ice ,which is what is happening now in the world ,if everyone is so concerned about global cough warming ,then ban fuel,simple even though it will have no effect on the earth but will send us to ice age quicker,take out the carbon we would spiral to freezing cold temps within a few weeks...
HI, (#1) The Antarctic ice sheet is definitely not growing. There has been some expansion of the sea ice around the continent though. If you don't know the difference, sea ice is the ice that forms when the sea freezes. The Antarctic ice sheet is the ice that is sitting on land, not floating in the sea. As a whole the Antarctic ice sheet is certainly shrinking in volume if not a lot in area. The expansion of the area covered by sea ice does not mean temperatures are getting colder. A simplified explanation is: i) Ozone levels over Antarctica have dropped causing stratospheric cooling and increasing winds which lead to more areas of open water that can be frozen (Gillet 2003, Thompson 2002, Turner 2009). ii) The Southern Ocean is freshening because of increased rain, glacial run-off and snowfall. This changes the composition of the different layers in the ocean there causing less mixing between warm and cold layers and thus less melted sea ice (Zhang 2007). (From http://www.skepticalscience.com/antarctica-gaining-ice-basic.htm) Gaius, (#2) Actually the Earth had been on a slight cooling trend since about 7,500 years ago. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Holocene_Temperature_Variations.png HI, (#6) Nice strawman there. No one has said the oceans rose 2 meters in the last 100 years. The actual rise has been measured and it amounts to about 7.5 inches since 1880. It's possible because of isostatic rebound that Liberty Island is rising too so the sea level rise it not so apparent there. There is however a possibility that SLR could approach 2 meters by 2100 depending on what we do about global warming CO2 emissions. Sea level is rising about twice as fast now as it was back in 1900.
Boonsri, There are a couple of typos. First ICEsat is an acronym for "Ice, Cloud and land Elevation satellite". Also you wrote "The DC-9 is a unique platform...". I think you meant DC-8.
The ice data on the overall size of the Antarctic ice pack is not in dispute by any global warming proponent. They simply ignore the facts that it is growing and focus on the one coastline that is melting. Icebergs break off the South Pole all the time. The difference is the southern ocean water is colder than normal. It is cold enough that the icebergs are not melting as fast during their journey north and are being sighted from the coast of Australia and New Zealand for the first time in over 70 years. That is another fact that is not disputed just ignored. And if the oceans have risen by over 2 meters in the last 100 years as many people here like to claim, why has the water level at Liberty Island gone unchanged in over 100 years? A 7-foot rise in the ocean would have inundated the famed walkway around the island by now. But the last time I looked the water was still below the seawall. Many other coastal icons across the globe including forts and lighthouses that predate the American Revolution would all be flooded if the ocean has risen as much in the past 100 years as the global warming crowd claim.
There are many people who will never believe the science of global warming because it is inconvenient for them and their wasteful lifestyle. We are at a tipping point on this planet with our over fishing of the oceans, dumping of plastics, waste and toxins into the water and carbon in the air. We are quickly ruining this planet. The icebergs off the coast of New Zealand and Australia broke off from Antarctic glaciers and are an unusual occurrence. You make it sound like they were created in New Zealand because it is colder there. Icebergs are breaking off of glaciers in record numbers and sizes such as in Greenland from the Petermann Glacier. Sea levels are rising and unusual weather patterns including record cold winters, extreme drought and flooding are occurring all over the planet. We cannot continue to use this planet for a dumping ground and not expect dire consequences.
1. This research is not a fraud. People who care about their home are requesting it. 2. Just how did you learn these facts, if not for research? Please back it up. 3. It is incontrovertible that average global temperatures are rising. The local effects, though, often seem to be more extremes, rather than an evenly rising temperature. 4. NASA has always done research on our planet. It is important to know how our home is doing. 5. When you call someone an idiot, look in the mirror.
Just keep on beating that drum till everyone forgets the truth. What truth? Oh, things like the fact that we've been pretty consistently warming ever since the last ice age; that we have nothing to do with it; that we can do nothing about it... You know, pesky little facts like that. If anyone really wanted to ensure mankind's survival, they'd push to get us spread out over more of the earth (there's plenty of room) (just do the math) in single-family dwellings with months, if not years of household (not communal) food, water and fuel storage. The question is, what solution do they really have in mind?
With every passing day I am convinced that global warming is a fraud committed by people looking for research money when I see projects like this. Did you know that the overall size of the Antarctic ice sheet has grown in recent years? One side of the South Pole ice pack has shrunk, but the other side has expanded so much that the overall size is larger than it used to be just 10 years ago. If the ?global? temperatures are rising why has this ice pack expanded AND we have a southern ocean cold enough that icebergs have been seen off the coast of both New Zealand and Australia for the first time in over 70 years? And why has NASA been forced to give up on manned space exploration to research a non-existent problem?