NASA's Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

NASA’s Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a series of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft.

According to NASA, the current mission targets “sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.” Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline, directly contributing to rising sea levels.

The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every four years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report Nov. 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by “human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases.” (Getty)

Photography by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountains peek through land ice, as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sea ice floes as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Patterns of ice and blue ice are seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

NASA Operation IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz photographs from NASA’s research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sea ice seen from aboard NASA’s research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountains peek through land ice as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sea ice floes as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sea ice floes, as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Ice is viewed from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountains peek through land ice as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

USGS field geophysicist Katrina Zamudio rests on the return leg of a nine-hour sea ice flight aboard NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountains peek through land ice as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Blue ice (top right) along a ridge can be seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

A view of sea ice from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

A nanatuk (center), or mountain peak, projects through ice in a view from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sections of blue ice are viewed from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountains (center) are mostly covered in ice as in this view from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

NASA Operation IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag walks to the hangar after a long science flight aboard NASA’s research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

A glacier is seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

A mountain (bottom left) peeks through clouds and ice as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Icebergs and sea ice, as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, float off the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

The shadow of NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft (left) is cast over blue ice, in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Ice is seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (top right), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Oct. 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

NASA Operation IceBridge mission scientist John Sonntag plays his guitar after a long science flight, aboard NASA’s research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Sea ice floats near an island as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Icebergs and sea ice (right) float next to land ice (left), as seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 3, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

NASA’s Operation IceBridge studies ice loss in Antarctica

Mountain peaks are seen from NASA’s Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on Nov. 4, 2017, above Antarctica. (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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