Operation IceBridge

NASA's Operation IceBridge (OIB) Mission - Monitoring the Earth's polar regions for over a decade


NASA's Operation IceBridge (OIB) Mission is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown. From 2009 to 2019, OIB collected yearly, multi-instrument documentation of the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice.

Potential Fields Team - Gravity and Magnetics

The LDEO Polar Geophysics Group leads the Potential Fields Instrument Team for Operation IceBridge. Together with partners Sander Geophysics Limited (SGL) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS), we have collected gravity and magnetic anomaly data from Operation IceBridge flights in both Greenland and Antarctica. Anomaly data, along with derived products, are archived and distributed by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).

      Why Potential Fields?

      Gravimeters (gravity meters) measure variations in the Earth's gravitational field. The free air gravity anomaly is sensitive to the density and topography of the Earth. In the polar regions, we use this gravity measurement to create models of the bathymetry, or water depth, under floating ice.

      Much of the continental ice shelves surrounding ice sheets remain unmapped due to their inaccessibility; and yet, the seafloor shape has first-order controls over the movement of deep ocean heat that is melting glaciers. The acquisition and modeling of airborne gravity data for bathymetry helps map these inaccessible areas of our planet; thus, improving ocean and climate model projections.

      Magnetic anomalies are caused by variation in the magnetic susceptibility of the rocks in Earth’s crust. We fly a magnetometer to measure these anomalies and help build a model of the geology that underlies the polar ice. These models then help us to interpret the gravity field, improve the bathymetry models, and understand the geological setting and history of the polar regions.


      OIB Gravity data

      OIB Magnetic Data


      Access OIB gravity and magnetic data on our OIB Data Page


      To learn more about OIB, please visit NASA's OIB Mission website.




      Federal funding for these activities were provided by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

      Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of NASA.