Earth Institute Research Projects

MRI-R2: Development of an ice Imaging System for Monitoring Changing Ice Sheets Mounted on the NYANG LC-130

Lead PI: Dr. Robin E. Bell , Mr Nicholas P Frearson , Dr. Christopher J. Zappa

Unit Affiliation: Marine Geology & Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

April 2014 - June 2015
Antarctica ; Greenland
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). The icePod system will consist of a suite of imaging sensors mounted in an external pod installed and operated on New York Air National Guard LC-130 aircraft during routine and targeted missions across Antarctica and Greenland. This system will be operated as a shared community research facility providing data to scientists and educators. Instrumentation will include a scanning laser for precise measurements of the ice surface, visible and infrared imaging cameras to document the ice surface structure and temperature, and ice-penetrating radar to recover ice thickness and constrain the distribution of water at the ice sheet bed. Geo-referencing of the measurements will be provided by precision GPS satellite data integrated with inertial technology. Using the icePod system, a majority of the remaining unexplored regions of East Antarctica will become open for study including several key regions in Antarctica. Data from the integrated icePod sensor system will enable novel studies of the dynamics of outlet glaciers, the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet grounding lines, the nature of the water movement between subglacial lakes and on the role surface melt water plays in the seasonal acceleration of the Greenland ice sheet. This project could provide the integrated ice imaging system capable of measuring in detail both the ice surface and the ice bed. The icePod imaging system will leverage a newly available instrumented door plug developed for Department of Defense Special Forces applications that can be installed in any LC-130 rear troop door. This proposal will design, build, calibrate, test and commission the instrument over a five-year period. A scientific advisory committee will provide input to the icePod team to ensure the system meets the science community's needs and an operations advisory group will provide input on aircraft operations, logistics, testing and certification. The goal of the icePod project is that the sensor system will become a facility operated for the science community and the data will be served to the science community through a NSF- supported polar data center.

Students will be engaged in the development of icePod through design, construction and demonstration of sample measurement systems. The investigators will also build a network of educators who can access, understand and employ the data collected from the icePod, thereby engaging students with the science of environmental change and instrumentation development.

OUTCOMES: Frearson, Nicholas. "IcePod - A Versatile Science Platform for the New York Air National Guard's LC- 130 Aircraft", 05/01/2011-04/30/2012, 2011, "American Geophysical Union Conference, Fall 2011".


National Science Foundation (NSF)





Bell, R. E., Tinto, K., Das, I. Wolovick, M. Chu, W., Creyts, T., Frearson, N., Abdulhakim, A., Paden, J.D.. "Deformation, Warming and Softening of Greenland's Ice by Refreezing Meltwater," Nature Geoscience, v.7, 2014, p. 497.


ice sheets icepod