U.S. project to study Arctic glaciers gets $30m grant from NATO

By Andrew Blackman - June 12, 2024


The Jökulsárlón glacial lagoon in Iceland. Photo: Michał Mancewicz via Unsplash.


A project led by the University of Arizona to study Arctic glaciers more closely has won $30 million in funding from NASA.

The aim of the Snow4Flow project is to use radars mounted to low-flying aircraft to improve predictions about glacier behavior and sea level changes. It’s led by Jack Holt, a professor at UArizona.

Snow4Flow will measure snow accumulation and ice thickness in four major Northern Hemisphere regions by using microwave and radar sounders on aircraft. The data will enhance climate models, improve satellite observations and predict how glaciers will be affectws by climate change, according to the university.

“Those glaciers are retreating fast, and they’re making a large contribution to sea level rise, but we don’t know exactly how much and how that’s going to change in the future,” Holt said in a statement.

At the moment, it’s not possible to accurately measure how much snow feeds into the glacier systems, or the volume of ice flowing out from the glacier. “Those are things that you can’t measure with satellites from space.,” Holt said.

The mission will mainly use two radar instruments to penetrate ice sheets and probe snow layers. Flights over glaciers in mountain valleys will gather data for three years starting in the spring of 2026, with the goal of monitoring the winter snowfall before it melts in summer.