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The Amundsen Sea Embayment

Investigating subglacial processes in the most rapidly changing sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. 

One of the greatest sources of uncertainty in projections of future sea level over policy-relevant time scales is the contribution of continental ice sheets. This is due, in large part, to unknown physics, processes, and conditions that govern ice sheet behavior and evolution, particularly during periods of unstable retreat. One of the critical processes in assessing the potential sea level contribution of continental ice sheets is the marine ice sheet instability, which suggests that the portions of ice sheets grounded below sea level may be susceptible to rapid unstable retreat. The marine ice sheet sector with the greatest recent observed acceleration and mass loss is the Amundsen Sea Embayment of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This region contains both Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier, which are two of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world. Recent results from a variety of observational and modeling studies have shown that the behavior and stability of both Thwaites Glacier and Pine Island Glacier are modulated by a combination of ocean forcing, bed topography, and basal conditions. Despite the considerable recent research on each of the glaciers individually, few, if any, have focused on studying the neighboring glaciers as a system. As a result, little is known about the potentially critical role of interactions across their boundary. Our work focuses on evaluating that potential by analyzing existing airborne radar sounding data to investigate basal conditions across the Thwaites Glacier, Pine Island Glacier, and their boundary to investigate the control they exert on ice flow and stability.

Related Projects

  • Characterizing the subglacial hydrology of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica using airborne radar sounding
  • Investigating bed conditions and control at the boundary between Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers, West Antarctica

Related Publications