Results for: Snow and Ice

April 2018 Highlights

Astronauts regularly shoot photographs of their earthly home. In celebration of National Astronaut Day, NASA Earth Observatory presents some recent eye-catchers from the International Space Station. Read more

Melting Beauty: The Icefields of Patagonia

The Patagonian icefields stretch for hundreds of kilometers atop the Andes mountain range in South America. Change here is rapid, as the icefields are melting away at some of the highest rates on the planet. Read more

Landsat 8 Turns 5

The Landsat series of satellites have been chronicling changes on Earth’s surface for 46 years. In the past five years, Landsat 8 has brought us an unparalleled look at the beauty and dynamism of our planet. Read more

International Collaborative Experiments for Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (ICE-POP)

Scientists have brought together sensors from all over the world, including a radar from NASA, to Pyeongchang, South Korea. Data collected with the instruments during the 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games are expected to help scientists understand precipitation processes and to improve weather predictions. Read more

Antarctica from Above: Flying for Science, Finding Beauty

Photographs from the 2017 Operation IceBridge field campaign show the many forms of land and sea ice around the frozen (and melting) southern continent. Read more

Antarctica from Above

In 2017, NASA's Operation IceBridge flew for the ninth year over Antarctica to map the ice. This video features photographs of land ice and sea ice, shot with a handheld camera and with the Digital Mapping System (DMS), during IceBridge flights in November 2017. Read more

Notes from the Field: ICESat-2 Antarctic Traverse

In December 2017, NASA scientists begin an Antarctic traverse in giant snow machines along the line of latitude at 88°S. Ground-based measurements of the ice sheet’s elevation will be compared with measurements from ICESat-2 shortly after launch in 2018 to evaluate the satellite’s performance. Read more

California Rises from Drought

A June snowstorm just topped off the already thick layer of white stuff atop the Sierra Nevada. California's snow water equivalent rose to a heaping 170 percent of normal. But not so long ago, the state was in the midst of a deep drought; its mountains were bare and brown, and water levels plummeted in reservoirs. Read more

Notes from the Field: Beaufort Gyre Exploration Project 2016

This annual expedition is enabling scientists to better understand the freshwater balance of the Arctic Ocean. Timed in late summer to coincide with the Arctic sea ice minimum, the campaign provides scientists with an opportunity to deploy a suite of oceanographic instruments within this harsh and remote environment. Read more

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

National Parks from Space

The U.S. National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016, commemorating 100 years of stewardship of America’s natural and historic treasures. Many of those monuments, scenic rivers, parks, and historic sites are visible from space—where the views are just as compelling. Read more

Notes from the Field: The Ablation Zone: Where Ice Goes to Die

In summer 2016, researchers landed on the Greenland Ice Sheet to study the efficiency of its drainage system. Intensive mapping, monitoring, and measuring of the ice sheet's rivers will help scientists improve estimates of ice loss via surface melt and its effect on global sea level rise. Read more

World of Change: Ice Loss in Glacier National Park

Shrinking since at least the early 1900s, the ice cover in Glacier National Park is expected to keep declining until only insignificant lumps remain. These images show changes to the park's ice and surrounding landscape since 1984. Read more

Notes from the Field: A Satellite Scientist Visits the Ice, Alaska 2016

NASA's Walt Meir uses satellites to study sea ice. But like many modelers and remote sensing researchers, he had never stepped foot on this remote polar icescape. In spring 2016, Meir joined other satellite remote sensing scientists, sea ice modelers, and field researchers in Barrow, Alaska. Read more

Notes from the Field: Nansen Ice Shelf, Antarctica

NASA scientists are collaborating with the Korea Polar Research Institute (KOPRI) to measure changes in the flow of the Nansen Ice Shelf in Antarctica. These measurements will then be used to model the physical properties of the ice. Read more

Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada

Wet and dry years cause the snow cover to fluctuate, but the overall trend has been downward for nearly a decade. Read more

Science in a Dark Freezer: A Tale of Icy Beards, Frozen Tools, and Wintering Over at the South Pole

NASA scientist Robert Benson was one of “eighteen crazy men and a dog” who set up the first permanent science base at the South Pole. Read more

Landsat Goes Over the Top: A Long View of the Arctic

Hitch a ride with Landsat 8 as it takes flight over the North Pole on the solstice. Read more

Notes from the Field: Operation IceBridge: Antarctic 2014

In October and November 2014, NASA's Operation IceBridge will fly its sixth Antarctic field campaign. This year’s campaign returns to Chile, giving researchers a view of how land and sea ice has changed in the past two years around West Antarctica and the Antarctic Peninsula. Read more

World of Change: Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Since 1980, the volume of this glacier that spills into the Prince William Sound has shrunk by half. Climate change may have nudged the process along, but mechanical forces have played the largest role in the ice loss. Read more

Notes from the Field: Operation IceBridge: Antarctica 2013

In November 2013, NASA's Operation IceBridge will study Antarctic land and sea ice, flying out of McMurdo Station in Antarctica. This is the fifth year that IceBridge has surveyed Antarctica but it is the first time the mission has ever operated directly on the continent. This new base of operations presents new challenges and new opportunities to measure parts of Antarctica the mission previously could not reach. Read more

Notes from the Field: Greenland Surface Melt Study 2013

In October and November of 2013, a NASA airborne campaign is surveying Greenland's ice sheet and nearby sea ice to study changes in surface elevation following the summer melt season. Read more

Dusting the Virtues of Snow

Scientist Tom Painter examines the differences between pure and dirty snow. A rise in dust can be a critical influence on snow-fed water supplies in the American West. Read more

Painted Glaciers

Bits of soot, dust, pollen, ash, salt, sand, and rocks coat the world's ice. NASA scientist Kimberly Casey is using satellites to analyze the debris so she can answer some key questions about glaciers. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Greenland Aquifer Expedition

NASA scientists return to Greenland, not to investigate the ice but to learn more about the water trapped within the ice. Read more

In a Warming World, the Storms May Be Fewer But Stronger

Extreme storms such as Hurricane Sandy, Snowmageddon, and the tornadoes of 2011 have prompted questions about whether climate change is affecting the intensity of weather. Satellites, statistics, and scientific models are teaching us a lot about what we know and don't know about severe storms. Read more

The Gravity of Water

Scientists are using novel measurements of gravity to gather indispensable information about Earth’s water supplies. The GRACE mission can see water flowing underground. Read more

Greatest Hits from Landsat

Landsat 1 was launched in July 1972, starting the longest continuous observation of Earth's land surfaces from space. Here are some of the memorable scientific and societal contributions from the 40-year-old program. Read more

Looking Back on Ten Years of Aqua

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA's Aqua satellite and its six instruments have provided a decade's worth of unprecedented views of our planet. Here are a few of our favorites. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Pine Island Glacier 2011

An international team of researchers are traveling to one of Antarctica's most active, remote and harsh spots to determine how changes in the waters circulating under an active ice sheet are causing a glacier to accelerate and drain into the sea. Read more

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: SEAT: Satellite Era Accumulation Traverse

An international team returns to West Antarctica for a second season of field work. Researchers are collecting data from snow pits, ice cores, and radar surveys to better understand snow accumulation and to improve space-based estimates of Antarctica's ice mass. Read more

Earth Matters Blog

Earth is an amazing planet, and the one that matters most to us. Let's have a conversation about it. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Real-time Observations of Greenland’s Under-ice Environment (ROGUE)

During the spring of 2011, the ROGUE project is examining the nature and cause of short-term ice velocity changes near Swiss Camp, Greenland by observing interactions between the ice sheet, the atmosphere and the bed. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: MABEL, Spring 2011

Flying on a high-altitude aircraft on the brink of space, the MABEL instrument is helping scientists to simulate measurements from NASA's next ice-observing satellite, ICESat-2. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Operation IceBridge: Arctic 2011

NASA's Operation IceBridge mission, now flying its third annual campaign over the Arctic, is helping scientists to keep watch over polar ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice. Read more

World of Change: Collapse of the Larsen-B Ice Shelf

In early 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area disintegrate so rapidly. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: The Uphill Road to Measuring Snow

Not your typical weekend ski trip: scientists turn Colorado's Steamboat Mountain into an outdoor lab for tests that will improve satellite estimates of snow. Read more

World of Change: Antarctic Sea Ice

Because of differences in geography and climate, Antarctica sea ice extent is larger than the Arctic’s in winter and smaller in summer. Since 1979, Antarctica’s sea ice has increased slightly, but year-to-year fluctuations are large. Read more

World of Change: Arctic Sea Ice

NASA satellites have monitored Arctic sea ice since 1978. Starting in 2002, they observed a sharp decline in sea ice extent. Read more

Winter Camp: A Blog from the Greenland Summit

Lora Koenig, a remote-sensing glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, spent three dark, frigid months supporting research at the National Science Foundation’s Greenland Summit Camp. Near the end of her stay, Koenig emailed the Earth Observatory answers to a few questions about how she wound up in Greenland and what is was like to spend the winter there. Read more

Earth Perspectives

In 2008, as NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Earth Observatory asked a number of Earth scientists what we have learned about our home planet by going into space. Read more

Rapid Retreat: Ice Shelf Loss along Canada’s Ellesmere Coast

Beginning in late July 2008, the remaining ice shelves along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island underwent rapid retreat, losing a total of 214 square kilometers (83 square miles). Read more

Disintegration: Antarctic Warming Claims Another Ice Shelf

In late February 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated, an indication of warming temperatures in the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites provided some of the earliest evidence of the disintegration. Read more

Greenland’s Ice Island Alarm

Global warming is shrinking the Greenland Ice Sheet by at least 150 billion metric tons a year. Read more

Something Under the Ice is Moving

Satellites measurements of ice sheet elevation reveal a complex network of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. As water flows from lake to lake, the ice sheet above them rises and falls. Read more


Questions from visitors to the Earth Observatory and answers from scientists. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Explaining the Evidence

Scientists' efforts to explain the paleoclimate evidence-not just the when and where of climate change, but the how and why-have produced some of the most significant theories of how the Earth's climate system works. Read more

Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Explosive blooms of plant life in the Arabian Sea between 1997 and 2003 may be the result of a significant dip in snow cover thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Climate Close-up

Both tree rings and similar rings in ocean coral can tell scientists about rainfall and temperatures during a single growing season. Read more

Paleoclimatology: The Ice Core Record

For six weeks every summer between 1989 and 1993, Alley and other scientists pushed columns of ice along the science assembly line, labeling and analyzing the snow for information about past climate Read more

Mosaic of Antarctica

Researchers use MODIS images to show Antarctica like you've never seen it before. Read more

The Art of Science

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have many tasks, but a consistent favorite is taking photographs of Earth. Read more

Blue Marble Next Generation

12 months of high-resolution global true color satellite imagery. Read more

Paleoclimatology: A Record from the Deep

Containing fossilized microscopic plants and animals and bits of dust swept from the continents, the layers of sludge on the ocean floor provide information for scientists trying to piece together the climates of the past. Read more

Operation Antarctica

When Program Managers of the U.S. Antarctic Program had to figure out how to get supplies to research camps in Antarctica, they turned to NASA sensors for information. Read more

Out of the Crevasse Field

NASA satellite data help the Antarctic Traverse Team avoid danger and beat a path to the South Pole. Read more

Time on the Shelf

Twenty-five years of NASA scientists' research in Antarctica and Greenland show that even huge ice sheets can change more quickly than scientists thought, causing sea level to rise. Read more


Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Speleothems

Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

Terra Turns Five

In February 2000, NASA's Terra satellite began measuring Earth's vital signs with a combination of accuracy, precision, and resolution the world had never before seen. While the mission is still in the process of fulfilling its main science objectives, Terra's portfolio of achievements to date already marks the mission a resounding success. Read more

Collapse of the Kolka Glacier

Russian scientists mapped Mount Kazbek in the Caucasus Mountains, site of a massive glacial collapse, and used satellite data to assess the possibility of additional dangers. Read more

Sizing Up the Earth’s Glaciers

Visit the worlds high mountain ranges and youll probably see less ice and snow today than you would have a few decades ago. More than 110 glaciers have disappeared from Montanas Glacier National Park over the past 150 years. Read more

GRACE Fact Sheet

Launched in March 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a five-year mission intended to produce maps of the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision and resolution. Read more

Life in Icy Waters

When you think of polynyas as a concentrated food source for larger organisms, then it becomes clear how important they are. Read more

Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

In the summer of 2002, graduate student Derek Mueller made an unwelcome discovery: the biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart Read more

Dwindling Arctic Ice

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. NASA researcher Josefino Comiso points to an accelerating warming trend as a primary cause and discusses how global climate change may be influencing the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Read more

Vanishing Ice

Konrad Steffen arrived on the Greenland Ice Sheet for the 2002 fieldwork season and immediately observed that something significant was happening in the Arctic. Pools of water already spotted the ice sur face, and melting was occurring where it never had before. Read more

ICESat Factsheet

The ICESat mission will provide multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Read more

The Migrating Boreal Forest

Using plant fossils and ice cores, scientists have put together a history of the how the boreal forest has migrated since the last ice age. That history may help scientists trying to predict how the boreal forest of today might fare in a world much warmer than the one in which we now live. Read more

Space-based Ice Sight

Data from recent NASA satellite missions offer scientists new views of Antarctica, and new opportunities to understand how its enormous ice sheet might respond to future climate change. Read more

Fragment of its Former Shelf

Scientists investigate the 2002 Larsen Ice Shelf breakup with the help of MODIS imagery. Read more

Scientist for a Day

Elementary and secondary students and teachers in the Midwestern U.S. collect snow and cloud data at their schools to help scientists validate satellite data in a global change research study. Read more

Snow Sleuths

Scientists use ground-based measurements to learn how snow looks from space. Read more

New Light on Ice Motion

MODIS' unprecedented high resolution reveals clues to Antarctic topography and ice history. Read more

Frozen Soils and the Climate System

While scientists have learned to interpret receding glaciers as well as changing trends in snow cover, sea ice extent, and sea level as "indicators" of climate change, they are still working to better understand the role that frozen soils play within the Earth's climate system. Read more

Disintegration of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue

Many processes that shape the Earth's landscape happen too slowly to be witnessed in a human lifetime. But analysis of satellite imagery shows that the large glacier tongue of the Ninnis Glacier on the coast of East Antarctica has disintegrated, changing the shape of the coastline almost overnight. Read more

Ice and Sky

The availability of the Canadian RADARSAT Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and new algorithms allow the detection of open water in polar ice from space. Read more

Polynyas, CO2, and Diatoms in the Southern Ocean

Climate models predict a dramatic shift in phytoplankton communities that live in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. Read more

Climate Clues in the Ice

Newly available upward-looking sonar shows significant decreases in sea ice thickness in recent decades. Read more

RAMPing Up

International teamwork yields a high-resolution map of Antarctica. Read more

Fire and Ice

The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo led to new techniques for detecting short-term climate variation. Read more

On Thin Ice

Satellite data fill the gaps in shore-based ice observations. Read more

Snow and Ice Extent

In December 1998, field support crews had to find a way to locate regions of sea ice dense enough to allow the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star to dock. Read more

Polar Paradox

Global warming could lead to another ice age. Read more

Upper Crust

Krill fight for survival as sea ice melts. Read more


The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ground. Read more

Visions of a Cloudy Continent

A combination of cloud-free satellite imagery and digital elevation data has revealed the face of Antarctica. Read more

90 Degrees N. 1999: NASA Demonstrates New Technology at the North Pole

On a recent (April 19–May 2, 1999) trip to the Arctic, NASA personnel chose the North Pole as the site from which to demonstrate how new communications technologies and the Internet now make it possible for scientists working in very remote locations to send and receive data using NASA communications satellites. Read more

At the Edge: Monitoring Glaciers to Watch Global Warming

Alpine glaciers are a good indicator of climate change. If the climate is getting warmer or drier, they will shrink. If it is getting colder or wetter, they tend to grow. Read more