Cresis Aerial Survey of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet
What Are They Doing?
Initially, the CReSIS team worked at McMurdo Station preparing and outfitting a Twin Otter airplane with equipment that was used to conduct aerial radar surveys of glaciers at remote field camps. Since it was used as a platform for conducting the experiments, the airplane was mounted with instruments that measured ice thickness, mapped ice layers, and conducted SAR-imaging – a form of radar that produces high-resolution maps of the ice surface.
In early December 2009, after aircraft preparations were completed, the team traveled to Byrd Camp, a remote camp on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, to conduct the aerial surveys. Each day (when weather permitted), the team took off, flew over area glaciers, and came back to camp. When they arrived back at camp, the team downloaded and processed the data that was collected by the instruments.
Although many of the areas that were surveyed were previously largely undiscovered, the survey work included flights over Thwaites Glacier (75.5°S 106.75°W). Part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, the Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest and most rapidly thinning glaciers in Antarctica.
At the core of CReSIS's work, the data collected during this project was integrated with other research efforts and data to create a 3-D visualization of the ice sheet to model and assess the potential impacts of ice sheets to future sea level rise.
Where Are They?
Located near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide field camp, the team worked primarily out of Byrd Camp. Both camps are located on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, a section of the continental glacier that covers the Antarctic continent west of the Transantarctic Mountains. The camp sits on top of over 3,000 meters of ice, thicker than 9 Empire State Buildings stacked on top of one another! The WAIS is classified as a marine-based ice sheet, meaning that its bed lies well below sea level and its edges flow into floating ice shelves.
Meet the Team
Gary Wesche teaches middle school science at St. John Francis Regis Catholic School, but prior to being a classroom teacher Mr. Wesche was a full-time dad, professional storyteller, and musical theater actor. He continues to link these experiences of acting, traveling, singing, parenting, and story telling to his teaching in ways that draw his students to learning. He pledges to have no student pass through his classes without an ample opportunity to experience the fun of life as a scientist. Mr. Wesche enjoys travelling, singing, gardening, learning, and playing with his wife and six children in their 110 year old mansion next door to the Kansas City Zoo. Mr. Wesche plans to use this PolarTREC experience to convey to his students and the public the relevance and excitement of scientific study and research, and give his students the chance to believe that they too can explore, discover, and travel the globe in their lifetime.