June 27, 2011, 17:00 PDT

All boots on deck

NASA's Arctic voyage resumes

By Kathryn Hansen, NASA Earth Science News Team On location in the Arctic

DUTCH HARBOR, Alaska — On June 25, NASA's ICESCAPE mission, short for "Impacts of Climate on Ecosystems and Chemistry of the Arctic Pacific Environment," set sail from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. At 8 a.m. local time, the icebreaker, scientists and crew forged north, marking the start to NASA's 2011 ICESCAPE voyage. The ship-based mission is studying the effect of climate change in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas along Alaska's western and northern coasts. For five weeks, 47 scientists will live, eat and breathe the Arctic.

The goal, simply, is to collect data from ocean and sea ice stations to find out how changes in the Arctic — particularly the changing sea ice — affect the ocean's chemistry and ecosystems. It's a job that NASA does from space, providing coverage over the entire Arctic region. To better understand what satellites see, however, we need boots on deck and on the ice to tease out the Earth system's complex connections and processes.

A few final glances back to shore and we turn our sights ahead. For five weeks we'll be living together, eating together, and executing a well choreographed dance of data collection and analysis.

Editor's note: Here on Big Fat Planet, we'll be picking up some of the blog posts from the ICESCAPE blog, and offering a behind-the-scenes look at Arctic ice science and icebreaking adventures, as well as some Arctic history. For full coverage, see the ICESCAPE blog here.


Adapted from the NASA ICESCAPE blog.

June 23, 2011, 17:00 PDT

What an astronaut sees

An intimate tour of Earth's landscapes

This mesmerizing tour of Earth, narrated by a scientist from Johnson Space Center's Crew Earth Observations Office, offers an extraordinary view of the surface from the vantage point of an astronaut orbiting on the International Space Station.


June 21, 2011, 17:00 PDT

Pick of the pics

Beautiful yet vulnerable

Image taken by NASA’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on December 22, 2002.

Image taken by NASA’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on December 22, 2002.

This image shows the Malosmadulu Atolls, which are located in the Maldives, an island republic in the northern Indian Ocean, southwest of India. The Maldives is made up of a chain of 1192 small coral islands that are grouped into clusters of atolls. It has a population of about 330,000. Arguably the lowest-lying country in the world, the average elevation is 1 meter (3 feet) above sea level, and the Maldives is at serious risk of being inundated by rising sea level and storm surges. In an effort to prevent his archipelago nation from literally drowning, Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed is pushing to make the islands carbon-neutral by 2020.