Brian Dunbar Headquarters, Washington, D.C. Aug.

20, 1991 (Phone: 202/453-1549) Keith Koehler Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va. (Phone: 804/824-1579) RELEASE: 91-133 NASA PROJECT TO MEASURE CHANGES IN GREENLAND'S POLAR GLACIERS Researchers from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center's Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Va., will use satellite and airborne instruments to measure the surface elevation of polar glaciers, aiding scientists in determining ice buildup or melting due to global climate changes. The campaign, which will take place in Greenland between Aug. 23 and Sept. 16, will use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and a laser-ranging instrument aboard a P-3 Orion aircraft to accurately measure the elevations of the glacier surface. The laser will scan an area 656 feet wide immediately below the aircraft, measuring the elevations of the glacial surface to a target accuracy of 4 inches, said Bill Krabill, Principal Investigator from Wallops. Other instruments on the aircraft will include two radar altimeters, a profiling laser and an inertial navigation system to measure the aircraft's pitch and roll. "Knowledge of the ice budget in polar glaciers will provide an indirect measure of sea-level changes and may indicate trends in world climate," said Krabill. It has been estimated that a 9-inch change in the average height of the central Greenland ice sheet would result in a 0.12-inch change in the sea level of the world's

oceans. Some computer climate models show that increased global temperatures would partially melt polar ice sheets and raise sea level. Other models show that rising temperatures would stimulate increased precipitation that would, in turn, increase the size of ice sheets. Following several decades of international field investigations, scientists need to gather more data about the ice surface elevation to determine whether ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica are growing or shrinking. - more -2Measuring large ice sheets may be a more practical method for helping assess changes in sea level, which is difficult to measure directly. However, measuring these sheets using ground systems also is difficult because of their remote locations. The aircraft system, which can cover large areas in a relatively short period, is a practical alternative method, Krabill explained. Repeated surveys in following years would help detect whether the glaciers have increased or decreased in volume. The principal instrument on the aircraft is Wallops' Airborne Oceanographic Lidar (AOL). The AOL measures the time it takes for a laser pulse to reach the ice and return to the aircraft. Time variations will occur because of changes in the terrain and the aircraft's altitude. Using the GPS, a Defense Department satellite system that allows aircraft or ships to precisely determine their locations, researchers will derive the elevations of the glacier. The aircraft, which will be based at Sondrestrom, Greenland, will fly 10 missions over the 3-week period. Some of the flight paths over central Greenland will correspond to previous ground surveys. In addition, a ground crew from Ohio State University will be measuring the surface elevation along a 60-mile section of the aircraft's flight paths. The flight path will lie exactly beneath an orbit track of the recently launched European satellite, ERS-1, which carries a radar altimeter to measure ice-sheet topography. Comparison of the satellite measurements to aircraft and surface observations will provide a check on the accuracy of the ERS-1 measurements. If the researchers obtain the desired measurements, a reflight over the same flight paths may be conducted in 1993, Krabill said. The program is conducted under the Earth Science Applications

Division of NASA's Office of Space Science and Applications. - end -

EDITORS NOTE: A drawing to illustrate this release is available to media representatives by calling NASA's Audio Visual Branch on 202/453-8373. Color: 91-HC-531 B&W: 91-H-629