“Lots of people think of the Arctic as just a flat expanse of white. This couldn’t be further from the truth. There are all sorts of cracks (leads) and mountains (ridges), similar to tectonic plates. The ice below is constantly moving via the winds and currents, and those forces acting on each piece of ice makes for a very dramatic seascape”
Lieutenant Commander John Woods wrote the above description after he climbed off a research plane in Greenland in late March. Woods is a professor in the Oceanography Department at the United States Naval Academy and joined NASA’s Operation IceBridge Arctic 2011 campaign to measure the sea ice thickness in the rapidly changing Arctic.
The photos above are examples of the type of observations that Woods and other members of the Sea Ice Thickness Observation Team are making in the region, accompanied by the Digital Mapping System, (DMS) a high-resolution digital camera mounted on NASA’s P-3B Earth science aircraft, which took the photos on March 26.
That same day the DMS took 14,092 photos, including the two above, as the plane flew in a zig-zag pattern only 1,500 feet, or 457 meters above the ice.
They provide a detailed view of ice floes, floating chunks of ice that are normally no larger than 10 kilometres, or six miles, in size. Thin ice is seen as darker than the water, almost transparent. Older ice is a darker white, and textured by piles of drifting snow.