2019-2020 Science Planning Summaries
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2019-2020 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

88S traverse: GPS survey for calibration and validation of ICESat-2 altimetry data

88S Traverse PistenBully, on the Antarctic Ice Sheet, in support of NASA’s ICESat-2 mission.
Photo by: Kelly Brunt
X-594-M/S Research Location(s): East Antarctic Plateau


Event Number:
NSF/NASA Agreement

Program Manager:
Dr. Michael Jackson

ASC POC/Implementer:
John Rand / Jennifer Blum / Paul Sullivan / Chad Naughton

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Kelly M Brunt
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Goddard Space Flight Center
Greenbelt, Maryland


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station, South Pole Station
Research Locations: East Antarctic Plateau


This project will conduct a high-precision GPS survey based out of South Pole Station, along the 88 degrees south line of latitude. The goal is to produce a large-scale dataset for the calibration of airborne and space-borne altimetry, and to validate ICESat-2 elevation measurements. The traverse along the ICESat-2 ground track convergence zone represents the only large-scale, ice-based validation effort on a cold, relatively stable part of the ice-sheet interior.

Field Season Overview

The project will perform a third PistenBully traverse associated with a ground-based GPS survey for the validation of NASA's ICESat-2 elevation and elevation-change data products. The 750 kilometer traverse route is along the 87.979° S line of latitude, approximately 224 kilometer from South Pole. The traverse will have two NASA participants, one ASC mountaineer, and one ASC mechanic. Participants will first spend one week at McMurdo Station to gather field gear and attend training. Once at South Pole, the team will acclimatize and prepare the two PistenBully vehicles and sled platforms for the traverse. Each vehicle will have a GPS receiver operating at all times, and a third GPS antenna and receiver will be available for instrument redundancy. The team will collect GPS data and reoccupy their deployed LiDAR cornercube reflectors. The traverse is estimated to again take approximately 15 days to complete.

Deploying Team Members

  • Kelly Brunt (PI)