NASA Langley deploys jet to Arctic to collect data on climate change

HAMPTON A NASA Langley jet is flying above the icy deep-blue expanse of Greenland on a mission to research climate change.

Two pilots and a crew took off last month to join Operation IceBridge, which NASA launched in 2009 to document changes in the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice.

They’re navigating an HU-25C donated by theU.S. Coast Guardthat was retrofitted with a glass pane in the bottom that allows a sensor to peer through and collect data on polar ice. The jet is small, speedy and capable of going high and far while carrying research equipment, two pilots and operators to monitor the devices.

The view from 28,000 feet high is of a vast, featureless white ice cap, says Langley pilot Richard Yasky. He is currently operating from Thule Air Base in northwestern Greenland.

As he swoops the plane along assigned research tracks, he sees what he describes as the stunning contrast of deep-blue water and snow-covered rocky coastlines.

The crew has gathered ice-elevation data along the length of the Saqqap and Narsup glaciers near Greenland’s capital. The country is both beautiful and desolate, he says.

“We look forward to many more flight hours gathering ice-elevation data and looking at areas of Greenland we have not seen yet,” he said in an email.

The researcher’s work will yield an unprecedented 3-D view of rapidly-changing features of polar ice such as how quickly it’s melting, according to NASA.

Elvis on board

A Land, Vegetation and Ice Sensor (LVIS, yes, pronounced Elvis) is on board Langley’s jet. It shoots laser beams to yield quick, accurate results about the height of the terrain it flies over.

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NASA Langley deploys jet to Arctic to collect data on climate change

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