A still from a time-lapse video of two months aboard an Antarctic ice-breaker.
Spring's not all about pretty flowers and greening trees. For some scientists it means watching Arctic ice. Scientists and engineers with NASA's Operation IceBridge are already at it, surveying glaciers in Greenland, Alaska and northern Canada. The flight part of the largest aerial survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown – a six-year mission over both poles aimed at producing a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and their sea ice.
Here, NASA's P-3B sits on the tarmac of the Kangerlussuaq Airport. The plane is equipped with a suite of instruments that gather data as the plane flies over the ice. It also carries scientists and teachers, some of whom took the following images.
The glacial Alaskan mountains are seen from high altitude aboard the P-3B during the IceBridge flight from Thule, Greenland, to Fairbanks, Alaska, on March 21, 2013.
A true river of ice, or glacier, on Greenland's Geikie Peninsula.
Tongue-shaped moraines appear to lick at the Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada. These moraines are debris that was plowed up and left behind by past glaciers
Another moraine left by a small glacier on Penny Ice Cap on Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada.
This year's aerial survey of the Penny Ice Cap glacier follows previous radar surveys done in 1995, 2000 and 2005 using the Airborne Topographic Mapper and CReSIS radar instrument.
Near Thule Air Base, sled dogs rest on the sea ice in North Star Bay. Behind them is the 700-foot-high Mount Dundas. Cities in Greenland are connected by ship and air, but shorter distances are crossed by snowmobile or dogsleds.
No, not another glacier, but an ice-covered fjord on Baffin Island near Davis Strait, which is in the distance. Baffin Island is the fifth largest island in the world.
This is a mosaic image of sea ice in the Beaufort Sea. The darkest zone is open water. Light blue zones are thick sea ice, while dark blue zones are thinner ice. The image was created by the Digital Mapping System (DMS) instrument aboard the IceBridge P-3B.
Icebergs crowd the sea ice of Jakobshavn Fjord, seen from NASA’s P-3B aircraft on the Apr. 4, 2013, IceBridge survey. Jakobshavn Glacier produces one in ten Greenland icebergs and is one of the fastest moving ice streams in the world.
NASA / DMS
Another view of the cracked Beaufort Sea ice by the Digital Mapping System (DMS) instrument aboard the IceBridge P-3B. The DMS uses a camera that points down through a window in the underside of the plane. It snaps a frame each second which are combined into a mosaic.
On April 8, 2013, science teacher Mark Buesing of Libertyville High School in Libertyville, Ill., shoots Greenland glaciers through the window of NASA's P-3B.
Eastern Greenland's Helheim Fjord is surveyed on April 5, 2013, from the NASA P-3B. Helheim is one of the largest in Greenland.
The P-3B sees its shadow on April 9, 2013, on the sea ice southeast of Greenland. Flying low altitude is all part of gathering detailed ice data.
Danish high school science teacher Jette Rygaard Poulsen watches the Greenland ice roll by from a window of the P-3B airborne laboratory on Apr. 8, 2013.
Not everything is icy in Greenland. Even as early as April 8, southwestern Greenland has ice free fjords.
An actively calving glacier front on the ocean in southwestern Greenland on April 8.
In two plots of topographic data from the Jakobshavn Glacier warmer colors are higher ice elevation. The calving front is at the transition from warm to cool colors. The difference between the two dates of survey reveal a loss of about 200 meters of ice.
It doesn't affect the ice, but there are some other interesting sights in Greenland this spring, like the aurora borealis over Kangerlussuaq.
A gorgeous new video is the best way to experience Antarctica without even feeling chilly.
The time lapse clip, produced and narrated by Cassandra Brooks, a doctoral student at Stanford University, condenses two months on an Antarctic ice-breaker into less than five minutes. Frame by frame, the video reveals how stunning sea ice can be — from polka-dot pancake ice to thick white flows.
"It was so beautiful," Brooks told LiveScience. "And it was such a neat experience to be on this crazy boat that was just screaming through the ice." (See the Video of the Antarctic Ice)
Brooks spent two months aboard the Nathaniel B. Palmer on a National Science Foundation expedition through the Ross Sea of Antarctica. Her team was investigating the release of carbon from phytoplankton blooms, which are so huge in this area that they're visible from space. During the expedition, Brooks also blogged for National Geographic.
The time lapse video was inspired, in part, by that blogging opportunity, and also by Brooks' husband, photographer John Weller.
"I happen to be married to an amazing photographer who insisted on sending me out on the boat with the right equipment," Brooks said. In this case, that equipment was a GoPro camera and a Joby GorillaPod flexible tripod, which withstood 60-knot (60 miles per hour) winds and negative 40-degree-Fahrenheit (negative 40 degrees Celsius) temperatures, she said.
Almost every day, except when the weather was simply too harsh, Brooks went to the bridge of the ship to capture images as the Palmer steered through the Ross Sea ice. The final scenes, though, were filmed from the back of the boat.
The Palmer had broken into an area called Cape Colbeck, home to a colony of emperor penguins. Another research group aboard the vessel was tagging the penguins, so the ship remain parked for several days as they did their work.
"The longer we were there the more and more penguins came. By the third day we just had it seemed like hundreds, if not thousands, of penguins just playing in our prop wash behind the boat," Brooks said.
She got the penguins on film, of course — and captured their raucous, squawking cries as well.
"The most amazing thing for me is that every time I go to the Antarctic, I make some sort of blog or some kind of media, and I felt like this is the first time I've been able to capture it well and also really share it well," Brooks said. "It's incredibly rewarding to know that people are really feeling it and probably falling in love with the place."
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