An airborne science laboratory probes Earth's frozen continent for signs of change.
In certain parts of Antarctica, the ice is disappearing—fast. To better understand how and why this is happening, NASA's Operation IceBridge mission uses a suite of advanced instruments aboard its DC-8 aircraft to survey the continent's layered ice deposits and underlying bedrock. One place scientists are looking at closely is the Getz Ice Shelf. The underside of this 300-mile-long floating tongue of ice hanging off West Antarctica is being eaten away by warm ocean currents. And a thin crack on its surface threatens to calve a large piece of it into the sea. In 2012, researchers mapped regions near the ice shelf's grounding line, the point where the ice leaves the support of land and begins to float on water, to determine how much ice is being lost to the ocean, and at what rate. Watch the video to learn more.