Project Glacier Watch

Northrop Grumman is developing sensor data technology to collect continuous and accurate measurements of glacial melting in Greenland

Project Glacial Watch
A yellow, eight-sides yellow shape with solar panels is a floating buoy, which sits next to a metal cylinder with small propellors on it. The cylinder holds the sensor package that will be attached to the buoy. The buoy and cylinder sit on a wooden dock with calm water behind them.

Going Below the Surface to Measure Glacial Melt

90 percent of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases warms the oceans, not the air. While data cannot solve this problem, this information can point us towards solutions to better estimate global sea level rise and its effects, as well as drive environmental policies.

Current methods to measure sea level rise include measuring the height of the ocean’s surface or using satellite images to see the change in glacier formation, but not all of the melting happens at the surface. Meltwater actually runs below the glacier creating a “meltwater plume” in the immediate vicinity of the glacier and melts the glacier from the bottom up causing it to break off.

That’s why Northrop Grumman has collaborated with HyperKelp to support NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s (JPL) mission to measure the melting of Greenland’s glaciers in a different way.

The result of our collaboration is a wire-tethered device (an “ocean profiler”) connected to a smart buoy that collects and transmits conductivity, temperature, and depth (CTD) information from glacial meltwater plumes in the deep ocean.

This device will collect data daily, more often and more efficiently than current data collection methods.

The data provided by our technology will help scientists more effectively understand and mitigate the impact of climate change and sea-level rise.

A woman and two men crouch on a dock with a yellow plastic round buoy and slim metal cylander in front of them that is the Glacier Watch system. Behind them is a red building and a boat.

The “Sliding Solution”

The goal of Project Glacier Watch is to provide NASA JPL with a solution to collect a continuous dataset of the entire water column near glaciers’ meltwater plumes to monitor the rates and effects of ice melt below the surface.


  • Custom-Built Hardware: The wire-tethered ocean profiler houses sensors and travels up and down the water column to collect CTD data at pre-determined depths
  • Rapid Information Transfer: Transferring data wirelessly daily with inductive charging
  • Automatic Status Alerts: System can recognize low battery and if the deployment system is stuck

Survivability: Intended to operate in freezing temperatures for six months, 1000 meters below the ocean surface

: A woman crouches on a dock with a yellow buoy next to her. She is in side profile to the camera. A man is standing also with side profile to the camera grasping a small rope attached to the buoy. Behind them is open water and two boats.

Innovation Career Opportunities

Are you interested in technology and innovation? We are too. Check out Northrop Grumman career opportunities and consider joining our team.

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