NASA scientists to explore stretch of Antarctic ice this Christmas

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NASA scientists to trek unexplored stretch of Antarctic ice
NASA scientists to trek unexplored stretch of Antarctic ice

New Delhi : A team led by two NASA scientists will be trekking the unexplored stretch of Antarctic ice from next week. Temperatures can drop below -20 degrees Fahrenheit with route blocks created by wind-driven ice dunes.

With a motive to do a survey of the land, they’re packing extreme cold-weather gear and scientific instruments onto sleds pulled by two tank-like snow machines called PistenBullys.

Two to three week long trek will begin from December 20 in which they will be covering a route in arc form around the South Pole.

The 470-mile expedition in one of the most barren landscapes on Earth will ultimately provide the best assessment of the accuracy of data collected from space by the Ice Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), set to launch in 2018.

“This traverse provides an extremely challenging and extremely cold way to assess the accuracy of the data,” said Kelly Brunt, ICESat-2’s calibration and validation lead at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, and a research scientist at the University of Maryland. “ICESat-2’s datasets are going to tell us incredible things about how Earth’s ice is changing, and what that means for things like sea level rise.”

The first few days at the South Pole station will be spent acclimatizing to the altitude, Neumann said, noting that the cold, dry air makes the environment even harsher.

“I’ll measure the density of the snow along the way,” he said. By shovelling out a three-foot-deep pit, he can see layers of snow that have built up over decades, some of which can be hard to dig past. “They’re not super dense, but they’re so old the grains of snow are bonded together like its cement.”