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A NASA airborne laboratory, flying out of Punta Arenas in southern Chile, is conducting the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice caps.
With plans to map three-dimensional views of the Antarctic region and armed with sophisticated radar and altimeter lasers, "Operation Ice Bridge" will enable scientists ble to compare ice sheets' thickness from one year to the next which will help determining how quickly the ocean may rise.
The study will produce similar data on the Arctic region.
The effects of melting ice caps are one of the issues being highlighted at the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference under way in South Africa.
Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman reports from over the Antarctic Peninsula.