One hundred years ago, yesterday, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first human to to reach the south pole. Today, while technology has certainly made vast strides, we are still exploring the great white continent, and have much left to learn.
Obviously there has been great innovation since Amundsen's time, and recently many scientists and explorers have gotten off the chilly ice and taken to the air, with NASA’s IceBridgeProject. Operation IceBridge is the largest ever airborne survey of Earth’s polar ice. Since 2009 the IceBridge project has conducted annual 6-week fly-over missions in the Arctic in March and April and in the Antarctic in October and November.
This year one of the biggest highlights for the IceBridge mission was the discovery of a large crack in the Pine Island Glacier iceshelf, which will lead to the separation of a 310-square-mile iceberg into the ocean, sometime in the near future. The growth of this 18 mile crack was documented over the course of several flights.
This month, Scientists, with the Bristish Antarctic Survey, will be sent directly to the Pine Island Glacier to gain a more hands-on understanding of how warming ocean currents may be the cause of this breakage.
These missions have allowed scientists to see snow, ice and bedrock characteristics at depths well below the surface. This information will be hugely valuable in gaining an understanding of glacier and ice sheet processes and will help scientists predicts a glacier’s behavior. This will also allow us to gain a greater understanding of how climate change may be affecting these areas, and how changes in these areas ripple to those of us seemingly far away.