The Big Picture

The evolving ice of Antarctica

NASA’s Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years and conducted a set of 12-hour research flights over West Antarctica at the start of the melt season. Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. NASA and University of California, Irvine (UCI) researchers have recently detected the speediest ongoing Western Antarctica glacial retreat rates ever observed.--By Getty Images
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Ice near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 27 in flight over Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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A section of ice near the coast of West Antarctica is viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 31, in-flight over Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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A view of a massive rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf on Nov. 10. Ice shelves are the floating parts of ice streams and glaciers, and they buttress the grounded ice behind them; when ice shelves collapse, the ice behind accelerates toward the ocean, where it then adds to sea level rise. The IceBridge scientists measured the Larsen C fracture to be about 70 miles long, more than 300 feet wide and about a third of a mile deep. It will produce an iceberg roughly the size of the state of Delaware. (Maria-Jose Vinas/NASA via AFP/Getty Images)
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Mountains protrude from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on Oct. 28 in-flight over Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica. Scientists say Antarctica’s massive ice sheets are melting at a faster rate than ever. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice near the coast of West Antarctica viewed from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 28. The cracks hint at how fragile the sheets really are. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Lyn Lohberger of NASA looks at sea ice floating near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice, mountains and clouds near the coast of West Antarctica. Icebridge carried out 24 flights over the Antarctic this year. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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NASA’s Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past eight years. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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NASA flight crew members work inside the cockpit of the NASA Operation IceBridge DC-8 research airplane on Oct. 27 flying from the coast of Chile, in-flight towards Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice crevasses near the coast of West Antarctica viewed during at NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 28, in-flight over Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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An iceberg (Lower R) floats among streaks of sea ice near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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The NASA Operation IceBridge airplane flies over the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on Oct. 31. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Geoscientist David Gallaher steps out of the cargo hold after checking on an instrument inside a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 27, flying near Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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A tabular iceberg floats near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats in West Antarctica. Antarctic sea ice volume is at the lowest level for this time of year since recording began in 1979. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica as seen from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Sea ice surrounds Bransfield island in Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Sea ice floats near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Geoscientist David Gallaher checks on a mission instrument inside the cargo hold of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on Oct. 27, in-flight over Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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Ice floats near a land mass near the coast of West Antarctica. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
In this blog: Big Picture
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