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Figure 1: Science flight trajectories for Antarctica 2012.

Operation IceBridge Mission in Antarctica with the University of Kansas and Indiana University.
In the fall of 2012, the MCoRDS/I, Snow Radar and Ku-Band Radar were installed on the NASA DC-8 aircraft to measure Antarctic land and sea ice. From Oct. 8 to Nov. 10, 2012 the team conducted 16 airborne radar surveys from the DC-8 over Antarctica while based out of Punta Arenas, Chile.This field season also included the first deployment of the “Forward Observer” data management system, built the Indiana University team. It centralized data storage and facilitated real-time data processing on-board the aircraft. Figure 1 shows the flight lines for the 2012 Antarctica OIB mission.

Operation IceBridge Airborne Radar Surveys with NASA DC-8: From October 9 to November 22, 2011, CReSIS personnel participated in the NASA Operation IceBridge (OIB) mission over Antarctica. The team conducted airborne radar surveys from the NASA DC-8 aircraft over Antarctica while based out of Punta Arenas, Chile. CReSIS radars included the MCoRDS/I depth sounder/imager, Ku-band radar, and Snow radar.

Antarctic Flight Lines
Flight lines flown by Twin Otter in 2011/2012 over Byrd Glacier in Antarctica

Airborne Radar Surveys with NSF Twin Otter: From November 14, 2011 to January 13, 2012, five CReSIS personnel conducted airborne radar surveys of Byrd Glacier in Antarctica using a Twin Otter aircraft (operated by Kenn Borek Air Ltd.) while being based out of McMurdo Station. The purpose of the mission was to simultaneously collect ice thickness and surface elevation data over Byrd Glacier using a suite of radar instruments. Three radars were installed on the Twin Otter aircraft and were used to collect data in Antarctica: MCoRDS/I (Multi-channel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder and Imager) ice-penetrating radar, Accumulation radar, and Ku-band altimeter radar. The team flew four test/calibration test flights, completed 95% of the “primary” survey lines, and 50% of the “bonus” flights. Approximately 20 terabytes of MCoRDS/I data, 2.65 terabytes of Accumulation radar data, and 3.42 terabytes of Ku-band radar data were collected.

NSF Unmanned Aerial System Mission: From December 7 to approximately December 30, 2011, eight CReSIS personnel deployed to McMurdo Station in Antarctica to conduct flight testing using two UAS’s—the Meridian UAS and the smaller-scale Yak-54 UAS—and to conduct tests with the depth sounder radar onboard the Meridian. The objective of this campaign was to increase the reliability and functionality of the aircraft and flight control system through extensive flight testing at Pegasus Airfield, as well as to demonstrate the platform’s science capability through testing of the onboard depth sounder radar. Flight testing was to include both line-of-sight and over-the-horizon tests. The team returned home at the end of December 2011.

Surface-based mission on Byrd Glacier: Because of heavy crevassing found throughout the entire trunk of Byrd Glacier, CReSIS partner Pennsylvania State University had to modify their previously planned surface-based work on Byrd Glacier. Their research was performed in conjunction with CReSIS researcher Dr. Leigh Stearns’ pre-existing NSF project. Stearns's team deployed 11 passive seismometers (see photo), adjacent to GPS stations, along the trunk and over the subglacial lakes on Byrd. These units were deployed from early November 2011 through early February 2012. Stearns's group used helicopter support to deploy and retrieve these units; the units were provided by IRIS/PASSCAL. Personnel at Pennsylvania State University (Anandakrishnan and students) will compile and analyze the seismic data. The purpose of this research was to better constrain properties at the bed of Byrd Glacier, and to assess whether subglacial water was released by the lakes during the time of deployment.

Seismic Station
Seismic station, taken in February 2012 prior to retrieval of unit.


Operation IceBridge Airborne Radar Surveys with NASA DC-8: CReSIS personnel participated in NASA’s Operation IceBridge (OIB) mission to conduct science flights using NASA’s DC-8 aircraft over Antarctica in October and November 2010. Personnel were based out of Punta Arenas, Chile. Three CReSIS radars were installed on the NASA DC-8: MCoRDS, the Snow radar (to estimate snow thickness over sea ice), and the Ku-band altimeter radar (for high-precision surface elevation measurements). The team collected more than 60 terabytes of data over parts of Antarctic glacial and sea ice during October-November 2010.


Operation IceBridge: CReSIS joined NASA personell in Puntas Arenas, Chile, from Oct 16 to Nov 18, 2009 for NASA’s Operation IceBridge project. A 157-foot DC-8 aircraft served as a flying laboratory during daily 12-hour round trips from Chile to Antarctica. The flights surveyed areas usually studied by the now-defunct ICESat-I satelliete. IceBridge intends to monitor these areas until ICESat-II launches in 2015. The deployment garnered high-precisions measurements of glacial ice surface elevation, thickness, and snow cover. It also measured the freeboard and snow thickness of sea ice in the Weddell Sea, Ross Sea, and Pine Island Bay.

The CReSIS field team consisted of Dr. Chris Allen, Lei Shei, Victor Jara-Olivares, William Blake, and Ben Panzer of KU, and Keith Lehigh from Indiana University. Dr. Richard Hale, Emily Arnold, John Hunter, Jared Anderson, Conner McMullen, Kevin Shipley, Jim Rood, and Mike Brenneson from KU’s Aerospace Engineering department designed the fairing structures to hold the antennas and helped with radar installation in California before deployment. Jill Hummels from the KU School of Engineering joined the team in Puntas Arenas to document their activities.

CReSIS used a new version of depth-sounding radar, called the Multi-Channel Coherent Depth Sounder (MCoRDS). With 8 channels and 5 antennas, it provided real-time mapping of land-based glacial bedrock topography. Also operated was a KU Ultra-Wide Band Snow Radar to measure snow thickness on top of sea ice. A KU-band Altimeter helped calculate ground distance from the aircraft. Overall, 21 flights were accomplished above the projected 17 for a total of 100,000 flight miles.


Surface-Based Seismic/Radar Surveys: A Thwaites-focused, nine-person team, led by Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan (PSU), deployed the second week of November 2008 to accomplish reflection seismic experiments aimed at a better understanding of the base of this glacier. A full geophysical characterization, including sediment properties and thickness, water layer thickness, and bed roughness were intended outcomes to aid in the numerical modeling. This team also deployed a surface-based radar to complement the seismic work, supported by a KU graduate student, Mr. Anthony Hoch, and using PolarGRID equipment for data storage and backup, communications, and data processing.

During the effort, the seismic team completed surveys on two lines of 60 kilometers (near UP Seismic Camp) and 5 kilometers (near WAIS), requiring a total of 262 holes and 760 shots. Radar data collected included 452 line-kilometers around the UP Seismic Camp on Thwaites, approximately 200 line-kilometers of data from the traverse back to the WAIS Divide Camp from the field site, and another 24 line-kilometers on one line over the ice divide near WAIS Divide Camp.

Gambit LogoGAMBIT: On November 29, Dr. David Braaten deployed from Kansas to join Mr. Chris McMinn (KU) and the Lamont-Doherty-led GAMBIT team in Antarctica to support the aerial radar survey. Survey flights were accomplished between December 22 and January 17, covering roughly 50,000 line-kilometers and generating ~ 10 Tb of raw data.


A Penn State-led seismics team deployed to Antarctica in late November. Five PSU researchers began working out of WAIS Divide and then transitioned to work in the vicinity of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica. The field team included middle school science teacher, Brandon Gillette, from Olathe, Kansas, who remained in the field for approximately six weeks during December 2007 and January 2008. Mr. Gillette’s participation was coordinated by another NSF-IPY education project, PolarTREC.

Gambit Logo
PSU-led team in Antarctica 2007/2008.

Approximately 20 km of high resolution seismic profiles were acquired, primarily targeting the grounding line and a prominent subglacial sill. Seismic reflection, refraction, and amplitude-vs.-offset geometries were employed. Eighteen Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers were deployed and operated continuously during the season in order to study the glacier's flow dynamics. Radio-echo-sounding techniques were also used to study englacial structure and bed properties.