Thwaites MELT

Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level

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MELT

MELT, “Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level“, is an interdisciplinary collaborative project between five universities and the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) that aims to use autonomous sensors, vehicles (including Icefin), radar, and moorings to monitor the Thwaites ice shelf and grounding line.

Undersea Life Captured on film by Icefin

Our Goals

Our goal is to better understand how the ice is flowing, ice-ocean interface dynamics, and the ocean bathymetry (i.e. the sea floor) in this region, with a particular focus on melting rates and dynamics.

Collaboration

As part of MELT and the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC – a collaboration between the U.S.’s National Science Foundation and the U.K.’s Natural Environment Research Council), Icefin was funded to look at the underside of one of the fastest changing regions in Antarctica – the Thwaites glacier – in 2019.

This field work will be critical to informing our understanding of global climate systems. Thwaites is a massive glacier on the West Antarctic ice sheet. It’s about the size of Florida and accounts for nearly 4% of global sea level rise, a contribution that has doubled since the 1990s.

About Melt

Project Details

Hot water drills will be used to make small holes in the Thwaites ice shelf so Icefin can access the ocean and grounding zone underneath, as well as for placement of the ocean moorings and autonomous sensors that will monitor year-round for the duration of the project.

This data will be used to augment state-of-the-art ocean and ice sheet models for better understanding of how this highly dynamic and sensitive system interacts with global climate cycles so we can better estimate the state of the glacial basin over the coming centuries.

The project is lead by Dr. Keith Nicholls, an oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and Dr. David Holland, an applied mathematician (with a background in fluid dynamics) at New York University, with co-leads Dr. Eric Rignot from the University of California at Irving, Dr. John Paden with George Mason University, Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan out of Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Britney Schmidt at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Acknowledgements

The Thwaites MELT program was funded by NSF and NERC (co-leads Holland and Nichols). Fieldwork on Thwaites glacier is supported by NSF, USAP, NERC, and the British Antarctic Survey.