Photos: Climate Change Captured in Stunning Antarctic Ice Photos

by Mario Tama | National Geographic | NASA

[N]ew photos from NASA flights provide a fresh look at melting ice. For the past eight years, NASA has been flying Operation IceBridge missions in research planes over the poles, in order to gather more visual data on the impact of warming temperatures.

To help make this work more accessible to the public, in late October, photographer Mario Tama flew on three of NASA's IceBridge flights over Western Antarctica and the surrounding sea ice, leaving out of Punta Arenas, Chile. The trip was timed to coincide with the start of the melt season (spring) in the Southern Hemisphere.

Ice is viewed near the coast of West Antarctica from a window of a NASA Operation IceBridge airplane on October 28, 2016. The cracks hint at how fragile the sheets really are.

Antarctica's massive ice sheets are melting at a faster rate than ever, new studies find.

Although climate change can be a scary topic, ice can be "insanely, unimaginably beautiful," says photographer Mario Tama.

Ice floats can be seen just off the coast of West Antarctica.

In Antarctica, it can be hard to tell where the land starts and (frozen) water begins.

Tama said he hadn't ever planned to visit the far south, but he was struck by what he saw.

It can be hard to get a sense of scale in such a vast place, Tama says.

Bransfield Island is one of many off the cold coast.

NASA flight crew members work inside the cockpit of the Operation IceBridge DC-8 research airplane.