Flight Planning & Input


IceBridge Science Team Flight Planning and Community Input

Operation IceBridge is a directed NASA mission to image Earth’s polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system. IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets. In addition, IceBridge collects critical data used to predict the response of earth’s polar ice to climate change and resulting sea-level rise.  IceBridge also helps bridge the gap in polar observations between NASA’s ICESat satellite missions.

Operation IceBridge project resources are available to meet level 1 science requirements (L1SR) and mission goals, rather than support for individual PI-led projects.

IceBridge Data

IceBridge collects annual data over the Arctic and the Antarctic, including an independent data collection effort over Alaskan glaciers. In addition to the annual Spring campaigns IceBridge collects data during Summer/Fall campaigns in the Arctic when resources become available. All Operation IceBridge data are freely available from NSIDC six months after data collection. Operation IceBridge offers over 60 data products in NASA’s Earth Science Data Systems approved data formats ranging from Level 0 through Level 4 data products. Instructions on how to use and cite IceBridge data are available on the IceBridge science website.

The IceBridge instrument suite consisting of laser altimeters, deep radar sounders, snow and accumulation radars, high-resolution photography, gravimeters and magnetometers is competed every 3 years through an open NASA ROSES solicitation.

The IceBridge Science Team (IST), together with the Project Science Office, is tasked with developing data acquisition strategies and designing campaign flight lines in order to meet the mission’s L1SR.  Membership on the IST is competed every 3 years through an open NASA ROSES solicitation.

General Data Acquisition Planning Strategy

In order to meet the L1SR the IST specifically considers building a long-term record of change based on laser altimetry that will allow bridging ICESat with future ICESat-2 measurements as well as linking IceBridge data with other altimetry missions such as ESA’s CryoSat-2. In order to build a long-term record of change about two thirds of all mission plans are repeat flight lines. Careful consideration is given to both, spatial and temporal sampling strategies as well as multi-instrument data collection that are critical to interpret altimetry records and understand the physical processes controlling glacier and ice sheet mass balance, and their contribution to sea-level change.

When necessary, the IST solicits input and feedback from the members of the science community for specific flight line planning.

Campaign Planning

In order to have the greatest operational flexibility in terms of weather and other constraints the IST designs many more mission plans that can possibly be flown during a deployment. When finalized, all mission plans are prioritized in order to help daily decision making in the field based on existing weather constraints. The actual number of missions, and which particular missions will be flown depends on their priority, weather and other constraints that are often outside the control of IceBridge, such as aircraft down time or strikes.

All final campaign planning documents, flight plans, science rationale, and justification narrative are posted on the IceBridge website in order to inform the community about plans for the upcoming campaign and provide a record of past campaigns.

Community Input

IceBridge is interested in identifying opportunities for collaboration and coordination in particular if another experiment will add to the value of IceBridge data, help with cal/val activities, or is of general interest for the broader science community. All requests will have to demonstrate how the data will help meeting the L1SR. Researchers requesting to collect IceBridge airborne data over their ground experiments need to be prepared to make their data publicly available or on request to other interested scientists.

Preliminary campaign plans will be posted one month prior to finalization on the IceBridge website for community input and finalized at PARCA (end of January) for the Arctic and UCI/OIB (end of June) for the Antarctic after which no more community requests will be considered.

Suggestions can be sent directly to any of the current Science Team Members, the IceBridge Project Scientist, or discussed at open community meetings such as PARCA or the annual sea ice workshop. Suggestions will be discussed in a timely manner by the entire IST. In order to minimize efforts associated with community requests we ask interested scientists to read the following guidelines before considering submitting a request:

Submission Guidelines for Community Requests

  • Researchers interested in submitting a data collection request must be familiar with the level 1 science requirements (L1SR), the IceBridge instrument suite, IceBridge data products and must demonstrate in their request to the IST how the science objectives of their proposed data collection plan will meet the IceBridge science requirements. For instance, a mission repeating earlier airborne or satellite laser altimetry flight lines will address science requirements IS1 and IS2, IS6 if it includes ICESat flight tracks; a mission that will acquire new ice thickness data will address science requirement IS3, it will address IS8 if collected along the central flow line of a major glacier, IS9 if it includes a perpendicular crossing of the glacier.
  • The data collection request must include a short description of how the IceBridge airborne data will be analyzed and which funding agency or project will support the data analysis.
  • The IST will not review a data collection request until the first two steps of the community request are completed.
  • A plan for data collection shall include if possible draft flight lines (latitude and longitude of end points), prior ATM/LVIS flight lines if available (e.g., repeat a line flown on Nov. 11, 2002 on Larsen C ice shelf for dh/dt), or a set of ICESat flight tracks (assistance in this matter can be provided by IST). We recommend users to employ Google Earth and/or employ the IceBridge flight planning tool.
  • We encourage interested researchers to consider minor modifications to existing flight plans to fulfill their needs. For instance, prioritize one repeat track versus another or include an additional track within a planned survey, etc.
  • The request will need to mention who is the point of contact in the IST for formulation of the data acquisition request.
  • The mission planning team may request assistance from the requesting researcher to optimize the flight lines, merge it with other requests or modify it to make more in line with IceBridge science requirements. The requesters will respond in a timely manner to the mission project queries, with the understanding that mission planning is a complex task within a short time period to finalize the plan and obtain proper clearance. IceBridge typically plans and prioritizes about 40 flight plans for every campaign over a period of 1-2 months. A single person is in charge of putting together the final flight plans; the flight planner is not tasked to provide assistance to individual researchers to formulate their data collection request. Researchers should seek assistance from IST members and minimize interactions with the flight planner.
  • Last minute changes or changes after finalization of the flight will not be accepted unless exceptional circumstances (to be reviewed by the IST and the project) due to the complexity of the mission and the many levels of clearance required for some missions.
  • IceBridge airborne data collected based on a community request is NASA mission data and therefore NASA data policy will apply. This means that data will be publicly available as part of the IceBridge standard data products at NSIDC. There will be no period of exclusive access to the data by the requester or anyone else. There will be no prioritized processing of data collected for a community request.
  • Researchers requesting to collect IceBridge airborne data in support of their own experiments are expected to make their own data publicly available or on request to other interested scientists if the requester’s own data directly contributes to meeting IceBridge L1SRs or IceBridge calibration and validation efforts and the decision by the IST to support the data collection request was based on the understanding that the data will be made publicly available.
Ice on Antarctica's Ellsworth Mountains, 10/22/2012 Ice on the Ellsworth Mountains in Antarctica as seen from the IceBridge DC-8 on Oct. 22, 2012. The Ellsworth Mountains are home to Antarctica’s highest point, Vinson Massif (16,050 ft / 4,892 m). Credit: NASA / James Yungel