NASA Chat: Live From the Top of the World on Earth Day



On April 7, Lora Koenig (right) observes first-look data available immediately from the Airborne Topographic Mapper. The instrument measures the surface elevation of ice, similar to measurements previously collected from space. Combining the records, scientists can look at the behavior of ice over long periods. Credit: NASA/Jefferson Beck

A NASA team of Arctic explorers is in Greenland right now on an airborne science mission to keep a careful eye on changes in the ice landscape on land and sea. On Earth Day, April 22, you can chat online with NASA scientists including Lora Koenig in Kangerlussuag, Greenland, about the Operation IceBridge mission.

Despite its name, Greenland is covered by a white ice sheet spanning an area equal to Alaska, Washington and Oregon combined. And it’s losing that ice at a rate of more than 170 gigatons per year.

NASA has for years used satellites to monitor polar ice from space, but since the loss of the Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite in 2009, researchers have relied on a different approach. During annual treks to the Arctic and Antarctic for Operation IceBridge, scientists operate a suite of instruments on aircraft to monitor the ice from the sky. The mission is now about halfway through its third Arctic campaign.

The airborne Arctic explorers have flown tens of thousands of miles over challenging terrain, including surveying from 1,500 feet glaciers coursing though jagged mountain valleys.

On Earth Day, NASA scientists involved with the mission will be available online to answer your questions about the mission and Greenland’s changing ice. Simply visit this page on April 22, from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT. The chat window will open at the bottom of this page starting at 2:30 p.m. EDT. You can log in and be ready to ask questions at 3 p.m.


On April 12, Lora took a day off from flying for a hike to the calving front of southwest Greenland's Russell Glacier. IceBridge is using a radar instrument to achieve a detailed map of Russell Glacier's bedrock. Credit: NASA/Kathryn Hansen

More About the Experts

Lora Koenig from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., is IceBridge’s deputy project scientist. Lora manages operations on the B-200 King Air, the campaign’s second airborne platform that carries a high-altitude laser instrument used to map the ice sheet’s elevation. She has also joined science flights on the P-3B, which carries a suite of instruments to study sea ice, the ice sheet’s surface, the many layers of snow and ice, and the bedrock below.

Tom Wagner, NASA’s cryosphere program manager, will be online from NASA Headquarters in Washington, to field questions about IceBridge and the state of the ice. Tom has appeared on TV news programs, adeptly describing the global importance of keeping watch over Arctic sea ice and land ice.


On April 12, Lora took a day off from flying for a hike to the calving front of southwest Greenland's Russell Glacier. Massive pieces of debris from a recent calving event are free of snow, showing off the glacial ice's spectacular blue hue. Credit: NASA/Jefferson Beck



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