NASA plans to begin an extensive aerial survey of Antarctica on Thursday to better understand the impact of global warming.
That understanding lies in the continent's ice sheets and glaciers. Operation Ice Bridge will encompass six years of flights, using DC-8 aircraft equipped with laser-mapping instruments, radar that can penetrate ice and gravitational instruments, reports the AFP.
The flights are expected to help scientists predict how changes to Anarctica's enormous ice sheet will alter (read: rise) sea levels around the world.
Earlier this year, NASA found that the Arctic ice cap was thinning rapidly, more than two feet in four years.
The plane and its crew, as well as some 50 scientists and support personnel, will be based in Punta Arenas, Chile through mid-November. Seventeen flights are planned.
You can follow the mission on its blog or on Twitter.
UPDATE: The flight is delayed "due to a transport strike here in Punta Arenas. There isn't enough fuel at the airport to fill the DC-8," according to a recent tweet.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com