This week on "TechKnow," we tagged along with NASA's Operation IceBridge. As part of a mission based out of Greenland, researchers have to fly a precise path each year and compare measurements of the glacial ice sheet, depth of ice and snow covers, and other data that help track climate change in the Arctic Sea.
But it's a huge swath to cover, and each year they need to return to the same locations. "We had to invent a technique," says John Sonntag, the mission's senior scientist for airborne topgraphic mapping. First they use a GPS map to plot the course. Then, Sonntag says, "We display that path in the cockpit via tablets mounted on the pilot's yoke. It basically looks like a video game." Then, following the red arrow as you might in a car with onboard naviation, "The pilot steers to keep the airplane icon over the path where we want it to be."
With Arctic temperatures rising twice as fast as anywhere else in the world, the annual change due to melting glaciers is often visible to the naked eye—but NASA's flyovers offer a far more specific report of global warming and its impact on rising ocean levels.
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