Last year, a colleague whom I have not seen for more than 10 years (and probably have only exchanged a handful of emails with) invited me to participate as a remote sensing instructor for oceanography students during a summer short course. The venue was onboard the world-renowned icebreaker Polarstern.

Snow is vital for Earth’s ecosystems and humans. It regulates temperature by reflecting sunlight and acts as insulation. When it melts in the springtime, it produces life-giving water.

Goddard Space Flight Center airborne campaigns are highlighted in a recent Capital Weather Gang article in The Washington Post. The article describes the novel coronavirus's impact on scientific research and field campaigns.

Science Highlights

Cloud Detection over Snow and Ice  using DSCOVR-EPIC’s Oxygen Bands

Winter Arctic sea ice thickness from ICESat-2 freeboards

NASA SnowEx 2020


Work With Us

The Cryospheric Sciences Lab regularly hosts interns and science who work on a range of projects with our scientists.  The NASA intern program lists current opportunities for research internships within Code 615.  Interns range from the high school level up to graduate students and anywhere in between, and typically last for two months.  If you don’t see a research opportunity that fits your interest, consider

Students Post Docs and Faculty

NASA Postdoctoral Program

The NASA Postdoctoral Program (NPP) offers unique research opportunities to highly talented national and international individuals who serve at NASA headquarters or other agency facilities. These one- to three-year appointments are competitive and are designed to advance NASA's mission.  For more information, please visit the following website and search on the code number of the opportunity that interests you from the table below.

Field Campaigns

September 2019

MOSAiC (Multidisciplinary drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate) is the largest year round polar expedition to the central Arctic in history. In September 2019, the German research vessel Polarstern set sail for the central Arctic and began a coordinated and highly detailed set of observations of the Arctic climate system. MOSAiC is an international effort led by the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI), Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research and involves hundreds of researchers from 20 countries.

NASA cryospheric scientist Kelly Brunt and other members of the NASA Cryospheric Science Laboratory endure low temperatures, high winds and high altitude to conduct the 88-South Traverse: a 470-mile expedition in one of the most barren and remote landscapes on Earth, towards validation of the ICESat-2 satellite.

February 2017


Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Kim, the 2017 SnowEx airborne and field campaign was carried out in Colorado during February 6-24. For more information please visit

Space Missions


The Snow Water Equivalent Synthetic Aperture Radar and Radiometer (SWESARR) is a new instrument designed to measure the water content in a snowpack. The instrument, developed at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, uses active and passive microwave sensors to map the radio frequency emissions of the snowpack, which can then be turned into a measurement of snow water equivalent.

The Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2, or ICESat-2, will measure the height of a changing Earth – one laser pulse at a time, 10,000 laser pulses a second. Launched in 2018, ICESat-2 will carry a laser altimeter that detects individual photons, allowing scientists to measure the elevation of ice sheets, sea ice, forests and more in unprecedented detail.

The restructured Joint Polar Satellite System (formerly -- National Polar-orbiting Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS)), will address NOAA’s requirements to provide global environmental data necessary for NOAA’s missions to monitor the earth, manage resources, support the Nation’s economy, and protect lives and property. source: NOAA

Research Areas

Hydrological Sciences Features

Ice processes overview graphic

Ice exists in the natural environment in many forms. The figure to the right illustrates most of the Earth's ice features. At high elevations and/or high latitudes, snow that falls to the ground can gradually build up to form thick consolidated ice masses called glaciers.

Sea ice in the Lincoln Sea

Sea ice is major area of cryospheric research and an important component of the strongly coupled polar ocean-ice-air system--a major focus of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program. The sea ice group produced, analyzed, and continues to maintain the longest calibrated, sea ice record (over 30 years, extending from ESMR in 1972, through SMMR, to SSM/I, and now to AMSR) from multiple passive microwave satellite sensors.


Operation IceBridge Postcards

Send a "note from the field" with postcards featuring images from Operation IceBridge, NASA's six-year airborne mission to monitor Earth's polar ice sheets, glaciers, and sea ice. Display the front of the cards to showcase spectacular images and visualizations from the mission. Turn the cards over to read factoids and learn about the ice at Earth's polar regions.

ICESat-2 Videos

ICESat-2 is a satellite mission to measure the height of Earth's ice-covered regions to track melting and other changes. From space, it will also measure the height of other features of our planet, including trees and shrubs, lakes and buildings.


Antarctic Elevation Laser Profiles and Digital Model

Data Files

Greenland Ice Sheet surface elevation is changing as mass loss accelerates. This data set investigates the amount of and processes related to, change in elevation at Summit station, Greenland, over the past decade.

LIMA was created from nearly 1100 individual Landsat-7 images of Antarctica, most collected between 1999 and 2003. A single Landsat image records the reflected brightness of a 185km x 185 km area of the earth’s surface in six spectral bands (30-meter spatial resolution), two thermal bands (60-meter resolution) and a panchromatic band (15-meter resolution).


The Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM) is a scanning LIDAR developed and used by NASA for observing the Earth’s topography for several scientific applications, foremost of which is the measurement of changing arctic and antarctic icecaps and glaciers.


NASA's Land, Vegetation, and Ice Sensor or "LVIS", is an airborne, wide-swath imaging laser altimeter system that is flown over target areas to collect data on surface topography and 3-d structure.


Hydrological Sciences currently supports a ground-based microwave instrument system called ComRAD for Combined Radar/Radiometer which is mounted on a 19-m hydraulic boom truck.



The Land Information System (LIS) is a high performance land surface modeling and data assimilation software framework, that supports GSFC's Land Data Assimilation Systems.