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NASA scientists flew over the Antarctic and conquered a gnarled world



The Antarctic is crazy.

As the Antarctic explorer Ted Scambos repeatedly told me, the high mountains of this remote southern landmass are literally up to their neck in the ice.

There is so much ice in the Antarctic that the sea level would rise 200 feet if all the ice had melted. The ice of the Antarctic spreads over a region about the size of the US and Mexico.

As you look at it, consider a new series of indescribable Antarctic photos taken by NASA scientists. The agency is currently flying an expedition over this wondrous ice world called Operation IceBridge. The multiyear mission is NASA's "most comprehensive airborne survey of ice change". The ice, if you did not know it, undergoes a significant change as the climate and oceans heat up relentlessly.

Consider these colossal ice streams, also known as glaciers, in eastern Antarctica. Above is the Denman Glacier, below the Scott Glacier.

  Denman Glacier

Denman Glacier

Image: NASA / Operation Icebridge

  Scott Glacier

Scott Glacier

Image: NASA / Operation Icebridge

Here, NASA conquered the steep cliffs of an iceberg broken off from the Antarctic. It may be hard to spot on an airplane window, but these cliffs are about 100 meters high, according to NASA.

  icebergs!

icebergs!

Image: NASA / Operation Ice Bridge

This mountain, Thompson Peak, is flanked entirely by Antarctic glaciers. In the foreground are the reddish crevasses or large cracks that form when the ice flows towards the coast.

  Thompson Peak

Thompson Peak

Image: NASA / Operation Ice Bridge

Here's a terrific picture of the vast Cook Ice Shelf that strikes the ocean and looks like it's covered in a thin layer of sea ice. (An ice shelf is the end of a glacier that floats over the ocean.)

  The Cook Ice Shelf

The Cook Ice Shelf

Image: NASA / Operation Icebridge

As if it could not get wilder, here floats an iceberg in a Polynya. What is a Polynya, you ask? A Polynya is a massive hole in Antarctic sea ice that can be as big as South Carolina or larger. The unique phenomenon occurs when the water gets mixed up under the sea ice, like a bartender shaking a cocktail and allowing relatively warmer seas to melt the ice.

  An iceberg in a Polynya.

An iceberg in a Polynya a polynya.

Image: Nasa / Operation Ice Bridge

Lastly, while addressing the issue of Antarctica, Antarctica has lost about 3 trillion tonnes of ice since the early 1990s, leading to ever faster sea-level rise.

  Ice loss in the Antarctic. [19659032] Ice loss in the Antarctic.
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Image: IMBIE / PLANETARY VISIONS


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