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Stunning Icy Landscape Photographed During NASA Flight

greenland images, NASA IceBridge campaign, meltwater ponds, what Greenland looks like, polar research, earth, Greenland ice melt
The jewel-like pond stands out amid white ice and dark rocks. (Image credit: NASA.)

Scientists aboard a recent NASA research flight over Greenland snapped a picture of a sparkling blue pond along the ice-bound island's rugged coastline.

The image was taken on May 7 over Greenland's northeastern coast as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge, a mission that sends flights above both the Arctic and the Antarctic to measure changes in ice and map the bedrock that lies hidden below it.

The campaign kicked off in 2009 to fill an observational void created when an ice-measuring satellite powered down, and while its successor, ICESat-2, is prepared for launch in 2016.

The pond was likely created by melting ice and snow. Researchers keep a close eye on the liquid water that appears on Greenland's massive ice sheet, because it can sometimes be a sign of more dramatic changes with wide-ranging effects.

Greenland is home to roughly 624,000 cubic miles (2.6 million cubic kilometers) of ice — if melted away, enough to raise sea levels by 20 feet (6 meters).

Research suggests that melted water that appears on the surface of Greenland's ice sheet trickles downward, lubricating the bottoms of glaciers and allowing them to slide to the sea faster.

Other research suggests that large volumes of meltwater might actually slow a glacier's progress to the sea.

Scientists with the IceBridge campaign are taking data designed to help researchers figure out just how much the ice in Greenland is changing, and better understand the mechanisms at work.

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Live Science Staff
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