Thwaites - Antarctica's Doomsday Glacier

Principal Investigators of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) recently conducted a special briefing for UK policy makers, on sea-level rise from Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

The scientists explained why it is important to reduce the uncertainty on how Thwaites Glacier will contribute to future sea-level rise; how governments will need to adapt to sea-level rise and how ITGC will better understand the contribution from West Antarctica; showed some of the robotics the teams will use to access previously unexplored parts of the glacier; and explained how the modelers will try to predict what will happen in the future, especially if the glacier collapses. Their presentation was summarized in a briefing report.

The Thwaites Glacier drains a vast part of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, extending over 192,000 square kilometers, or 74,000 square miles—an area the size of Florida or the island of Britain. It is also one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica. Over the past 30 years, the amount of ice flowing out of the glacier and its surrounding region has nearly doubled.

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) and UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) have teamed up to study the glacier and its adjacent ocean region. The five year project will explore ocean and marine sediments, measure currents flowing toward the deep ice, and examine the stretching, bending, and grinding of the glacier over the landscape below: Modeling studies will use the collected data to create a better forecast of the glacier’s retreat and explore conditions that could lead to a rapid increase in ice loss.

Project website:
Project InfoGraphic:
Why should we care about the Thwaites Glacier (video):

Policy report provided by the UK, All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions. @APPGPolar on Twitter
Image copyright: NERC, Ben Gilliland

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