Ninety-eight percent of the continent is covered in ice, and scientists say monitoring changes to the ice cover and glaciers is vital to track the impact of global warming.
Researchers participating in Operation IceBridge will survey Antarctica from two aircraft flying from a base of operations in Punta Arenas, Chile.
"With IceBridge, our aim is to understand what the world's major ice sheets could contribute to sea-level rise," Michael Studinger, IceBridge project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., said. "To understand that you have to record how ice sheets and glaciers are changing over time.
"With a third year of data-gathering underway, we are starting to build our own record of change," he said.
A DC-8 operated by NASA completed its first science flight Oct. 12 and will fly through mid-November while a Gulfstream jet operated by the National Science Foundation and the National Center for Atmospheric Research will fly through early November, a NASA release said Thursday.