Radar Study of Icelandic Glacier Winter Movement – by NASA

The cold of an Icelandic winter did not stop one NASA science
aircraft from completing a mission to map glaciers on the island during
the past week. NASA’s C-20A, based at the Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in
Palmdale, Calif., flew four radar missions from Keflavik International
Airport near Reykjavik, Iceland.
The aircraft carries a precision NASA synthetic aperture radar,
developed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., that
uses a technique called interferometric synthetic aperture radar (InSAR)
to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth’s surface.

A
ground crewman at Keflavik International Airport sprays de-icing fluid
on NASA’s C-20A research aircraft prior to takeoff on a radar imaging
mission over Iceland’s glaciers. The aircraft was parked outside
overnight in sub-freezing temperatures, requiring de-icing each morning.
The Icelandic mission is designed to study how movement of the
glaciers in winter differs from their movement in summer when there is
considerable meltwater that reaches the bed of the glacier, according to
principal investigator Mark Simons, a professor of geophysics at the
California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. “This study will help scientists better understand the basic
processes that control the fate of glaciers as climate changes. In so
doing, this study contributes to our understanding of glacier behavior
world wide and will aid in improving our estimates of rising sea
levels,” said Simons.
“We all recognize that the techniques being developed in this project
both observationally and in terms of modeling should have significant
impact on studies of the cryosphere around the globe, as well as on our
planning for a future U.S. L-band radar satellite,” he added.
The Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR) is
installed in a specialized pod mounted on the belly of NASA’s aircraft.
Each of the four flights, totaling more than 26 hours, was flown over
the same path as a summer 2012 study of surface ice on glaciers.
Prior to the first science mission being flown Jan. 31, the C-20A had
to be de-iced after being parked outside overnight due to lack of
hangar space. When the crew arrived to prepare for flight, the “aircraft
looked remarkably like a glazed donut,” quipped NASA C-20A project
manager John McGrath.
The C-20A, which is a military version of the civilian Gulfstream III
business aircraft, and its specialized equipment arrived back in the
U.S. Feb. 6.

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