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Journey to the South Pole: NASA releases stunning images revealing the incredible beauty of the Antarctic (17 Pics)

  • The beautiful images were taken aboard Nasa's Operation IceBridge Lockheed P-3 research aircraft
  • Images include sweeping shots of mountains and land ice, carpets of icebergs spreading from the Antarctic 
  • West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline contributing to rising sea levels, experts say

  • For almost a decade, Nasa's Operation IceBridge has been on a mission to build a record of how polar ice is evolving in a changing environment. Nasa has released a series of stunning images revealing what it believes is a huge extent of loss at the south pole

    Operation IceBridge's mission is to collect data on changing polar land and sea ice and maintain continuity of measurements between ICESat missions. The original ICESat mission ended in 2009

    Shown here is an image taken Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region, on November 4 above Antarctica. Researchers are currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss 

    In this image, a series of mountains and land ice are seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft in the Antarctic Peninsula region

    The team are using a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. The spring IceBridge campaign will take the P-3 to Greenland, Norway, and Alaska over the next 10 weeks

    Nasa's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved for almost a decade and is now monitoring ice loss over West Antarctica

    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

    In this image, mountain peaks are seen from Nasa's Operation IceBridge research aircraft. 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

    Icebergs and sea ice (right) float next to land ice (left) in this Nasa image. The current campaign uses NASA’s P-3 aircraft – a four-engine turboprop from the Wallops Flight Facility that can fly for 8-12 hours

    Radar waves penetrate glaciers all the way to their base, allowing experts to analyse how the bottom profiles of the glaciers

    Pictured is sea ice floating off the coast of western Antarctica as captured by Nasa. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities'

    Nasa's P-3 Orion aircraft has a scanning laser altimeter to measure surface elevation, three types of radar systems to study ice layers, a high-resolution camera to create detailed color maps, and infrared cameras to measure surface temperatures

    These stunning patterns are shapes moulded into ice and blue ice around the Antarctic Peninsula region as captured from Nasa's Operation IceBridge research aircraft

    The Amundsen Sea embayment hosts some of the fastest melting glaciers on the planet. This is because warm ocean waters flow across the continental shelf into sub-ice shelf cavities where they slowly erode the ice, especially near the glaciers' grounding lines — where the glacier meets the sea

    This picture might look more like a slice of marble, but it is actually floating ice captured from the Operation IceBridge aircraft

    Operation IceBridge is now in its ninth year, after nearly a decade observing the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. Pictured is a glacier captured by experts on the research mission

    If a glacier loses mass from enhanced melting, it may start floating farther inland from its former grounding line, just as a sunken boat may be able to float again if a heavy cargo is removed. This is called grounding line retreat

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