NASA next week begins the most extensive aerial survey of Earth's surface to chart the impact of global warming, with six years of flights over Antarctica to understand the frozen continent's glaciers and ice sheets.
The US space agency said the massive aerial survey, part of a program dubbed Operation Ice Bridge, will get underway on October 15.
Data gathered during the mission will help scientists predict how changes to the massive Antarctic ice sheet will contribute to a rise in sea levels around the world.
Researchers will work from NASA's DC-8, an airborne laboratory equipped with laser mapping instruments, ice-penetrating radar and gravity instruments.
"A remarkable change is happening on Earth, truly one of the biggest changes in environmental conditions since the end of the ice age," said Tom Wagner, cryosphere program manager at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
"It's not an easy thing to observe, let alone predict what might happen next. Studies like Ice Bridge are key," he said.
Space officials said the plane, crew and scientists depart October 12 from NASA's Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale, California, and fly to Punta Arenas, Chile, where they will be based through mid-November.
Some 50 scientists and support personnel are part of the mission, which will involve 17 flights over the southern polar region.Reuse content