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International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration

The largest Earth science funding agencies in the United Kingdom and the United States are collaborating to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica: Thwaites Glacier. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration is the largest joint UK-US project undertaken on the southern continent in 70 years.

Thwaites Glacier, in West Antarctica, has been accelerating and widening over the past three decades. How fast Thwaites will disintegrate or how quickly it will find a new stable state have become some of the most important questions of the future of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and its contribution to sea level rise over the next century and beyond.  Our group is leading the project “PROcesses, drivers, Prediction: modeling the History and Evolution of Thwaites” (PROPHET)! We will work with Hilmar Gudmundsson (Univ. Northumbria), Daniel Goldberg (Univ. Edinburgh), Brent Minchew (MIT), Indrani Das (Lamont). We will rely on three independent numerical models of ice flow, coupled to an ocean circulation model to (1) improve our understanding of the interactions between the ice and the bedrock, (2) analyze how sensitive the glacier is to external changes, such as changes in ocean-induced melt under its floating extension or calving front position, (3) assess the processes that may lead to a collapse of Thwaites, and, most importantly, (4) forecast future ice loss of Thwaites. By providing predictions based on a suite of coupled ice-ocean models, PROPHET will also assess the uncertainty in model projections.

Selected publications

  • H. Seroussi, M. Morlighem, E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, E. Larour, M. Schodlok and A. Khazendar, Sensitivity of the dynamics of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, to climate forcing for the next 50 years, The Cryosphere 8 (2014) 1699-710 [link]
  • E. Rignot, J. Mouginot, M. Morlighem, H. Seroussi and B. Scheuchl, Widespread, rapid grounding line retreat of Pine Island, Thwaites, Smith, and Kohler glaciers, West Antarctica, from 1992 to 2011, Geophysical Research Letters 41 (2014) 3502-09 [link]