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How NASA is tracking sea ice in Antarctica

By: Katherine Butler on Feb. 28, 2012, 6:08 p.m.
sea ice along Antarctic'as Amundsen coast

Photo: NASA

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View from above

It’s no secret that the planet’s glaciers are melting. The Environmental Protection Agency reports that sea levels have risen from 6 to 8 inches in the past 100 years. Some experts estimate that sea levels will rise as much as 20 inches by the year 2100, which could wreck havoc on coastal cities.

NASA has been mapping deteriorating glaciers in the Antarctic through the Operation IceBridge program, called “the largest airborne campaign ever,” over the world’s polar regions. Flying a DC-8, which deploys from Punta Arenas, Chile, NASA has mapped extremely remote areas of the Antarctic never traversed by people. Looking for information important to sea levels, the IceBridge flights continue the previous glacial observation work of the Ice Climate and Elevation Satellite (ICESat), which ceased operating in 2009.

Pictured here is the first flight of Operation Sea Bridge on Oct. 16, 2009. This image shows the sea ice along the Amundsen coast from an altitude of 20,000 feet. (Text: Katherine Butler)