Table of contents executive Summary

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[GRAPHICS: Figure 9: UAVSAR mounted under the G-III at Dryden Flight Research Center, Figure 10: Figure 10: G-III/UAVSAR Flight Crew at Adak Island; and Figure 11: Aleutian Islands Flight Lines.]


Science Focus:

Atmospheric Composition and Chemistry

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Abshire, Browell, Spiers

One major near-term requirement for the Active Sensing of CO2 Emissions over Nights, Days, and Seasons (ASCENDS) mission is to select a method and payload to measure CO2. To that end, NASA had an outstandingly successful set of coordinated CO2 laser flights over the DOE Atmospheric Radiation Measurement (ARM) Central Facility (CF) between 31 July and 7 August 2009. Four coordinated flights were made in Oklahoma with the NASA Langley UC-12, NASA Glenn Lear-25, Twin Otter International’s Twin Otter, and the DOE Cessna covering altitudes from near the surface to 40-kft altitude. DOE in situ CO2 point measurements were made on the tower at the ARM CF, and DOE radiosondes were launched to determine atmospheric state variables for each coordinated flight. The coordination between NASA, DOE, Vance AFB, and FAA for all operations was exceptional and enabled all flights to be conducted as planned. Two additional flights were conducted from NASA Langley with the Glenn Lear and Langley UC-12. All lasers and in situ sampling systems worked well during the field campaigns. All in situ data sets, including those from the UC-12, have been collected and distributed to all of the laser system teams for their comparison to the remotely derived CO2 laser measurements. Results from these comparisons are expected to be available in early 2010.
[GRAPHIC: Figure 12: NASA Langley UC-12B aircraft awaits take off clearance as the Glenn Lear 25 takes off during joint operations in Ponca City, Oklahoma, in August 2009.]


Science Focus:

Water and Energy Cycle

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The Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission (SWOT) is recommended by the NRC decadal survey to satisfy the elevation mapping requirements of two communities: surface water hydrology, and ocean surface topography. The primary instrument is a Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIN) capable of simultaneously meeting coverage, accuracy and resolution requirements of both communities and enhances greatly the science achievable from a traditional profiling altimeter. The introduction of this new approach introduces additional algorithmic, characterization and calibration/validation needs that can be addressed through focused airborne campaigns in conjunction with traditional ocean altimeter calibration/validation measurements and existing and planned surface water gauge networks.

Surface water phenomenology presents some of the more immediate measurement and characterization questions due to the diversity of terrestrial water environments coupled with a paucity of relevant measurements. A recent (April 2009) opportunity arose to collect Ka-band data over terrestrial water bodies when the Glacier and Land Ice Surface Topography Interferometer (GLISTIN) (developed as a proof-of-concept sensor on the Gulfstream III under the NASA International Polar Year program – discussed elsewhere) transited to Greenland. En route to Greenland via North Dakota, data were collected in support of SWOT by rolling the G-III and collecting near-nadir backscatter profiles over local water bodies. Selected in collaboration with USGS and academic colleagues, these sites included Red River, Missouri River, Prairie Potholes, Devils Lake and the Big Bog. Flying into Thule, SWOT data was also collected over sea ice as a target of opportunity. These data will provide valuable backscatter statistics and for developing a land/water classification including over vegetated water.
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[GRAPHIC: Figure 13: Ka-Band antenna, funded by ESTO as part of GLISTIN project.]

EPA Joint Sensors Mission

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Environmental Protection Agency



In 2009, NASA Langley integrated three instrument packages onto its Cessna 206 to provide support to the Ecosystem Services Research Program (ESRP) of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Office of Research and Development. The ESRP is a new, multi-year research initiative which will combine selected ecological indicator data and recent advances in resource economics to determine the value of services that terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems provide to humans. The instruments include a VISNIR Hyperspectral Imager called the Environmental Mapping Visible Imaging Spectrometer (EMVIS), a set of Hyperspectral ocean color radiometers (HyperOCR), and an infrared pyrometer.

The instruments will provide optical and thermal data for research in the ESRP-Nitrogen and ESRP-Coastal Carolinas program to determine how changes in reactive nitrogen loading from terrestrial landscapes relate to changes in nutrient cycling and the impact to the ecosystem services associated with nutrient retention provided by freshwater and marine systems, specifically in lakes and drinking water reservoirs in New England and in the Albemarle/Pamlico Sound region.
Results from Instrument Check Flights (ICF) on August 4, 2009 indicate strong correlations between remotely sensed sea surface temperatures and Chlorophyll-A concentrations, derived from a bio-optical model, and in situ data measured in the York River and Susquehanna River/lower Chesapeake Bay by the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences (VIMS) Virginia Estuarine and Coastal Observing system and the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy system.
Following the ICFs, the Cessna 206 flew a series of science flights between August 25 and 30, 2009 spanning coastal to piedmont areas of North Carolina to collect EMVIS, HyperOCR, and thermal data for the ESRP Coastal Carolinas Program. A research goal is to integrate airborne hyperspectral remote sensor data and ENVISAT-1 Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS) satellite data with in situ monitoring data and ferry-based water quality monitoring to provide a nearly continuous multi-resolution phytoplankton bloom monitoring capability for the entire Albemarle and Pamlico Sound region and the Neuse River estuary. During these flights, Langley served as the base of operations.
From September 13-18, 2009 the Cessna 206 deployed to New England to support data collection and algorithm development for water quality indicators over Long Island and Rhode Island Sounds, followed by a series of inland flights over selected New England lakes and ponds. During the deployment, the Cessna 206 surveyed 55 lakes in four states in a two-day period. Lakes were selected based on their trophic status. Aircraft data were supplemented by concurrently collected in situ data from several lakes by field crews provided by the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, the University of New Hampshire, and coordinated by US EPA Region I.
The Cessna 206 flights in New England were conducted to support the Remote Sensing of Phytoplankton Program (ReSePP) at the EPA’s Atlantic Ecology Division in Narragansett, Rhode Island.
[GRAPHIC: Figure 14: Installation of the three EPA hyperspectral ocean color radiometers on the NASA Cessna 206H aircraft.

High Winds

Science Focus:

Water and Energy Cycle

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L-band microwave radiometry is the key remote sensing technique for NASA’s Aquarius satellite

mission for ocean surface salinity research. The L-band radiometry acquires ocean surface brightness temperatures (TB), which respond to the change of sea surface salinity. To achieve accurate surface salinity measurements, the impact of ocean surface winds on L-band TB has to be corrected.
In February and March 2009, JPL’s Passive and Active L-System (PALS) and Polarimetric Scatterometer (PolSCAT) were installed on the NASA P-3 research aircraft to acquire coincident L-band radiometer and radar data over a wide range of ocean surface wind speed.

The overall objective for the High-Winds’09 mission was to fly five instruments over predetermined flight lines over the North-Atlantic Ocean and Labrador Sea, based from Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Engineering and program test flights were based from NASA WFF. All science team success criteria were determined by JPL PAL / PolSCAT science team.

Success criteria for High-Winds’09 were as follows:
• To acquire PALS and PolSCAT, passive and active microwave data to enable the development of algorithm during high wind conditions.

• L-band microwave RFI detection and GPS reflection systems will be tested.

• Dropping Airborne eXpendable Conductivity Temperature Depth (AXCTD) probes to study the near surface salinity signature
The GISMOS and GPSRS systems flew as piggyback instruments to collect data during High-Winds’09 allotted flights.
[GRAPHICS: Figure 15: P-3 performing PALS navigation calibration on Goose Bay taxi way; and Figure 16: P-3 belly, PALS installed in the forward white radome, PolSCAT in the aft black radome.]
The five instruments being flown aboard the NASA WFF P-3B were as follows:
• Passive Active L-band System (PALS) - Steven Dinardo, NASA JPL

• Airborne Polarimetric Scatterometer (PolSCAT) - Steven Dinardo, NASA JPL

• Airborne Expendable Conductivity Temperature Depth Probe (AXCTD), Dr. Daniel Jacob, NASA GSFC

• GNSS Instrument System for Multi-static Occultation (GISMOS) – Dr. James Garrison, Perdue University

• GPS Remote Sensing Instrument (GPSRS) – Dr. Michael Grant, NASA Langley Research Center
The High Winds ‘09 mission started with a flight on February 12, flying over the National Data Buoy Center Buoy 41002, off South Carolina to verify the calibration of POLSCAT. Next, a region identified for winter high winds is the Northern Atlantic and Labrador Sea area. This location shows the highest regional wind speeds as per current NASA QuickSCAT satellite data.
On February 16, the aircraft was deployed to Labrador seas to acquire data under high wind conditions. The High-Winds’09 missions were flown over a 3.5 week period (February 16- March 9, 2009), deployed out of Goose Bay airport. Goose Bay is a Canadian Forces Base (CFB) located in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. CFB Goose Bay is presently operated as an air force base by Canadian Forces Air Command and is the site of NATO tactical flight training in Canada. It should be noted, The High Winds ’09 mission received wonderful support from the CFB air operations and the Canadian weather services. Without there superb help, the High Wind Mission would not have been a success.
While in Goose Bay, P-3 flights were scheduled based on daily field meetings. Satellite data and data provide by the Canadian Weather services, was reviewed by the JPL science team and flights were made during periods of predicated ocean surface winds in excess of 50 Knots.
The P-3B High-Winds’09 campaign data is still being analyzed. Preliminary results are showing high correlation between PALS L-band radiometer and radar signals of ocean surfaces. The correlation of TB with radar backscatter is as high as the correlation with the surface wind speed (greater than 0.95). The results demonstrated the feasibility to use the radar backscatter to estimate the excess brightness temperature due to wind forcing.

[GRAPHICS: Figure 17: March 3, NASA P-3 Flight track from Goose Bay, Canada to the selected way point in the Labrador Seas. At the waypoint, the P-3 performed High Winds ’09 “Star” pattern, Circle flights and Wing wags; Figure 18: Local Goose Bay film crew, interviewing Steve Dinardo, about the High-Winds’09 mission; and Figure 19: En route from Goose Bay to high winds waypoint, picture captures the end of the ice sheet.]
Interferometric SAR Ice Mapping in Greenland

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Kaye, Albertson


Zebker, Moller

On May 1, 2009, the NASA Gulfstream III (NASA502) departed Dryden Flight Research Center on its first deployment, a challenging mission to measure ice dynamics in Greenland and Iceland using first a Ka-Band and then an L-Band synthetic aperture radar. The aircraft and crew returned on June 17, having accomplished all primary and all secondary objectives. The two radar instruments successfully collected data over wetlands and flowing water in North Dakota, open ocean and ice packs, glaciers in Greenland and Iceland, wetland dynamics in the Florida everglades, coastal zone changes in the Louisiana gulf coast, and levees along the Mississippi River. In 31 sorties, encompassing over 170 flight hours, the DFRC/JPL crew collected approximately 6 Tb of radar data, providing the science community with unique views of the dynamics of snow and ice during the arctic melt, as well as a number of other dynamic environmental processes.

The deployment began with the Ka-Band radar, called GLISTIN (Glacier and Land Ice Surface Topography INterferometer ). The GLISTIN instrument is a derivative of the L-Band system, designed and built as a proof-of-concept. Data were collected over prairie potholes, wetlands, and the Red and Missouri rivers in North Dakota and Minnesota in support of early design for the Decadal Study SWOT (Surface Water Ocean Topography) mission. NASA502 remained at Grand Forks, ND, overnight and proceeded to Thule, Greenland on May 2nd, collecting data over pack ice en route. For the next two weeks, Ka-Band data were collected over the Jacobshaven Glacier and along a transect to High Point (at 10,000 ft, the highest point in Greenland), allowing observations of a variety of snow and ice conditions. The flight on May 6 was a coordinated flight with the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) sensor aboard the NASA P-3 as well as field measurements at Swiss Camp and High Point. Early results revealed that the Jacobshaven glacier calved approximately 1.5km over a 6-day interval.
Flights with the second pod and L-Band UAVSAR (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar) began on May 15 and continued for the rest of the deployment. An inverter failure on that flight caused a re-deployment to Bangor, Maine for repairs, and the crew returned to Thule, with data en route, on May 20th. The crew changed out on May 26. Except for a brief overnight at Kangerlussuaq (Sondre Stromfjord) on June 4th to permit acquisitions in Eastern Greenland, flights continued from the “Top of the World” over the Greenland glaciers and ice sheet until June 8, accomplishing all objectives and options in Greenland.
[GRAPHICS: Figure 20: The G-III and UAVSAR landing at Keflavik, Iceland; Figure 21: Figure 21: Flight route of G-III from Dryden Flight Research Facility to Greenland and Iceland during IPY, including stops in North Dakota and the Everglades; and Figure 22: Ka-Band antenna in pod mounted on G-III aircraft for flight to Greenland.]

On June 8, the crew transited to Keflavik, Iceland, for an intensive series of flights over Lanjokull and Hofsjokull glaciers. The Principal Investigator, Marc Simons, was enthusiastic in his hope that these data would be the first 3-D vector measurements made over these rapidly changing glaciers. On June 14, the crew began its journey home, collecting repeat pass UAVSAR data in the Florida everglades to study vegetation structure, data along the Louisiana gulf coast to characterize subsidence, and data along the Mississippi River conduct levee condition assessments.

It took the science teams many months to analyze this large volume of data for scientific results. The response from the scientific community to the opportunity presented by this unique collection has been overwhelmingly positive. This was a highly ambitious undertaking, especially so for a first deployment. Despite the challenges of operating in an extreme environment with new systems, all the requested data were collected. This is a testimony to the excellence in design of the JPL radars and the DFRC Precision Autopilot, the robustness of the G-III as a platform aircraft, and the perseverance of the combined JPL/DFRC crew. This deployment, and the ones to come, will provide the science community new tools for environmental science, as well as providing pathfinders for the new instruments recommended by the NRC Decadal Study.
For more information, visit
[GRAPHICS: Figure 23: Backscatter imagery for a short segment over Jakobshavn glacier. Data was collected at an altitude of 8km (MSL). The horizontal axis spans 7.5km and corresponds to the cross-track dimension of the radar. The map posting is 3m x 3m; Figure 24: Height elevation map corresponding to the same region as Figure 18. The color wrap is 800m.]

Operation ICE Bridge

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Operation ICE Bridge 2009 was funded by the NASA Cryosphere Program Manager, Thomas Wagner and the NASA Airborne Science Program Manager, Randal Albertson. The Operation ICE Bridge Project Scientist was Seelye Martin of the University of Washington. The OIB Project Manager was Kent Shiffer from the NASA Ames Earth Science Project Office.

The Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation (ICE) Sat I satellite is nearing the end of its lifespan and is expected to be inoperable very soon. ICESat II is not expected to launch until 2014 at the earliest. With this in mind, the Airborne Science program established a campaign to bridge the data gap with NASA aircraft assets. This campaign was officially named “Operation ICE Bridge” or (OIB).
Operation Ice Bridge is now well underway. Incorporated into OIB are several NASA and commercial entities that will provide data for both the Arctic and Antarctic. In calendar year 2009 the primary scientific focus for OIB were the Arctic and Antarctic regions of sea and land ice.
From March 30 – May 6, 2009 the NASA P-3 from Wallops Flight Facility conducted the spring portion of OIB out of Thule and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland with great success. The P-3 aircraft and crew flew a total of 20 science flights over 172 flight hours, the most of any previous P-3 deployment.
Instrumentation on the P-3 included the Laser Vegetation Imaging Sensor (LVIS), Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM), Pathfinder Airborne Radar Ice Sounder (PARIS), and the University of Kansas Snow Radar. NASA P-3 flight lines included sea and land ice with ICESat I under-flights. These instruments provided observations of land ice, sea ice and extended Arctic sea ice along coastal Greenland and a long leg transit to/from Fairbanks, Alaska, while underflying ICESat I.
In two separate measurement campaigns in May-June and in August-September, the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute’s Chris Larsen flew a single engine Otter aircraft with a laser altimeter to acquire elevation profiles and compute mass balances of the remote Stikine Glacier and glaciers surrounding Glacier Bay on the Alaskan peninsula near Juneau. Weather was favorable and the mission was completed on time. Dr. Larsen was able to complete 52.4 of the 60 flight hours allocated for these combined Alaska missions.

In Austral Spring, October 15 –November 23, 2009, the NASA DC-8 completed an unprecedented 227.4 flight hours including 21 science flights in the southern hemisphere over Antarctica from Punta Arenas, Chile. Unusually clear weather over the glacial and sea ice targets provided measurements of some locations that have never been measured before.

Cryospheric instruments onboard the NASA DC-8 included the ATM and LVIS instruments previously flown on the NASA P-3, the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder/Imager (MCoRDS/I) ice sounder and KU band snow depth sounder from the University of Kansas, as well as an airborne gravimeter supplied by Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. Also included in the instrument mix was the Digital Mapping System (DMS) provided by John Arvesen of Cirrus Systems. This combination of instruments will provide extremely valuable data set to the earth science community. The NASA DC-8 platform has an extended range envelope that provides a substantial increase in time over the glacial and sea ice target areas when deployed for remote locations such as Punta Arenas, Chile.
[GRAPHICS: Figure 25: Operation Ice Bridge Science flight lines over Greenland and the Arctic, Mar. 30 through May 6, 2009; Figure 26: Western Greenland glacier, south of Thule Air Base; and Figure 27: NASA P-3 outside hangar 8, April 2009, Thule Greenland.]
Atmospheric Chemistry instruments were added to the DC-8 payload as piggyback flyers to try to gain some experience over the rarely measured Antarctic atmosphere. These insitu measurement instruments included AVOCET measuring CO2, Diode Laser Hygrometer (DLH), Differential Absorption CO Measurement (DACOM), measuring the trace gases CO, CH4, N2O, CO2, and H2O(v) and the University of California, Irvine Whole Air Sampler (WAS).

In Austral Spring (November – December), Don Blankenship, Principle Investigator for the University of Texas, was contracted to provide science data for Antarctic glaciers that the DC-8 cannot reach from Punta Arenas with the Ken Borak, Basler BT-67 aircraft. [This was done in conjunction with an NSF/NERC science mission.] The focus work for the BT-67 is the Cook and Totten glaciers surface elevation and observation of East Antarctica. The instrumentation suite on board the BT-67 includes an Ice Penetrating Radar, Magnetometer, Laser Altimeter, and a Gravity Meter. Basic data from the instrumentation suite consists of profiles of (a) ice thickness, (b) ice-surface elevation, (c) free-air gravity and (d) magnetic field intensity. This work was done in conjunction with an NSF/NSERC science mission.

More information can be found on the OIB web site at:
Antarctica 2009 Mission Blog sites

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