Your email address will not be published. Thwaites is a 'wildcard' for sea levels The glacier sits in West Antarctica and flows into the Amundsen Sea. Along the 150-kilometer ice front, the satellite images show two … Required fields are marked *, Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences MODIS images provided by Christopher Shuman and NASA Worldview. Neither mission made it south of 74o 50’ latitude. Thwaites Glacier today is rapidly losing mass in response to changing atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Your email address will not be published. “Thwaites is a terrifying glacier,” Anandakrishnan says simply. The survival of Thwaites has been deemed so critical that the United States and Britain have launched a targeted multimillion-dollar research mission to the glacier. The grounding line is where the glacier transitions from resting on the bedrock to a floating ice shelf in the Amundsen Sea. Thwaites Glacier. Image courtesy of Johan Ronaldsson. Phone: 713.348.4880 They move up, down, and forward through the ocean by motorized internal mechanisms- oil bladders and weights which can be manipulated remotely. 29/2018 Lars Boehme and his team tag two Weddell seals near Thwaites Glacier. The eastern ice shelf looks like a large solid piece of ice. Glaciers appear on almost every continent. The urgency stems from observations and analyses showing that the amount of ice flowing from Thwaites—and contributing to sea level rise—has doubled in the span of three decades. Thwaites Glacier covers 74,000 square miles—an area the size of Florida—and is particularly susceptible to climate and ocean changes. Multiple studies show that, overall, Antarctica is losing ice. Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier has been in the spotlight in recent years, as scientists have undertaken a multi-part international project to study the vast glacier from all angles. In addition to multibeam bathymetry, the THOR team collects complimentary sub- seafloor images that can reveal several meters of what lies directly below the surface. The Palmer is sitting quietly in the ice-free waters of western Pine Island Bay. The Thwaites glacier is 74,000 square miles, roughly the size of the UK. Thwaites was nearly seven stories high here, at its eastern edge, and the bluish cliff glowed against the grayscale sky.It was snowing, and foggy, and the glacier appeared like something out of this world. Learn more about the eight projects that are part of ITGC, © 2020 CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder. Officially called the Thwaites Glacier, this mass of ice nestled into the western edge of Antarctica is melting at an alarming rate. 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The Hugin also deployed on a 13-hour mission to conduct a survey of the seafloor. Arriving around 5 a.m., the Palmer begins to map the uncharted perimeter, the multibeam simultaneously mapping the seafloor in front and as far under the shelf as the angle of the sound pulse could extend. However, statements or recommendations expressed here are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Their multi-day missions at Thwaites will gather ocean current direction and velocity, sea water temperature, salinity, water pressure (a depth equivalent), the amount of chlorophyll in the water, suspended sediment, and the amount of dissolved oxygen in the water for specific ocean depths. Weather plays a significant role in the movement of sea ice. The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration consists of eight projects focused on specific aspects of the glacier, and one coordinating project. Learn more about the mission. The growing cavity sits in West Antarctica at the bottom of Thwaites Glacier, which is about as big as Florida and contains enough ice to contribute more than 2 … Sub-bottom profiles are pictures, almost like an x-ray view, of the first 10s of meters into the seafloor. The gliders, who are named for whales (both common and famous names), are guided remotely from their institutions through satellite transmitted commands. UK and US scientists are collaborating to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, roughly the same size as Florida or Britain… © Copyright - Rice Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences. The craggy face of Thwaites loomed a few hundred feet away, but seemed almost close enough to touch, or at least within shouting distance. The ice melt draining from Thwaites into the Amundsen Sea already accounts for … The other teams are also busy deploying the ocean water CTD’s (35 in total for all of Thwaites as of the seventh) and deploying gliders that collect ocean current and CTD information over a longer time period right next to the glacier. According to NASA, the entire Thwaites Glacier, which is the size of Florida, is responsible for about 4 percent of global sea level rise and holds enough ice … Once they move into the sea, the ice eventually breaks along the fracture lines. This first site is near what is possibly a former pinning point at the tip of the remnant Thwaites Glacier Tongue. Today, we would not be able to survey the seafloor in that sector. The Palmer glides slowly, 400 meters from the face of the ice shelf in front of Thwaites Glacier. This section has been breaking up and retreating by about 10 kilometers since 2016. • Log In, Geophysical Habitat of Subglacial Thwaites (GHOST), Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level (MELT), Deep channels link ocean to Antarctic glacier, Plans for International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration in response to COVID-19, New Sights in the Second Field Season of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration. Similar to the multibeam echo sounder, sub-bottom profiles are also created from sound, but using different frequencies and computer processing to generate an image that shows seafloor structure and sedimentary layers. The Thwaites glacier is slightly smaller than the total size of the UK, approximately the same size as the state of Washington, and is located in the Amundsen Sea. Comparison of the seafloor in front of Thwaites as seen by the EM122 multibeam echo-sounder and the Hugin’s multibeam. Warming, fracturing, melting. Like several other West Antarctic glaciers, Thwaites is rapidly losing ice, and with it, the ability to hold back rising seas. Flowing off the west of the Antarctic continent, Thwaites is almost as big as Great Britain. All our fingers were crossed that the ice would not prevent the Palmer from getting close to the ice shelf. Sarah works as a programme administrator within the Science Coordination Office (SCO) to help with the organisation of meetings and any other administrative needs supporting the researchers involved in … Several groups of Emperor penguins that were feeding in the water nearby observe the proceedings. This is what the western ice shelf looks like at its terminus. The glacier terminus is nearly 120 km wide, and the bed of the glacier reaches to >1000 m below sea level. Thwaites Glacier ice shelf extends about 15 kilometers beyond the grounding line. The ice-free conditions ensure that we can complete the oceanographic tasks and head back to Thwaites for a few more days of surveying (and hopefully coring!) The instruments are tethered to a weight that sinks to the bottom of the ocean. The partial traverse of the Palmer at the edge of the ice shelf the morning of 26 February. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number NSF-PLR 1738913, and reviewed by NSF. Data collected near Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica by scientists aboard the research ship Nathaniel B. Palmer (seen here at the site in … FOC/UK- permit No. (NASA) "I think this is a big step towards helping understand that," he added. There was great hope, based on this mid-February satellite imagery, that the area in front of Thwaites would still be open when we arrived. While the Palmer might be able to navigate it, the interferences caused by the ice would produce very little usable multibeam data. Thwaites Glacier is one of the largest and most unstable ice streams in Antarctica. Following its recovery on the afternoon of March 1st, the Hugin’s multibeam data revealed meter scale seafloor features, finer-scale features that complement the regional scale imagery that the multibeam bathymetry collects. Fax: 713.348.5214 UK and US scientists are collaborating to investigate one of the most unstable glaciers in Antarctica, the Thwaites Glacier, roughly the same size as Florida or Britain. They are recovered by triggering a release mechanism that will allow the instrumentation to float up to surface for retrieval. Upon reaching the eastern edge of the shelf, we gathered multibeam bathymetry and sub-bottom profiles. Over the past 30 years, the amount of ice flowing out of the region has nearly doubled, and computer models show that over the next several decades, the glacier may lose ice even more rapidly. Amanda Wynne provides digital communication support for the ITGC SCO and manages the ITGC social media channels on Facebook and Twitter. As of the 3rd of March, the THOR team have surveyed more than 1,500 square kilometers of new seafloor. The region includes Pine Island Bay, marine areas offshore the Thwaites Ice Shelf to the Crosson Ice Shelf, and covers an area of 74,750 km 2. You can see the difference in the amount of cover on the western side of both images. On the afternoon of the 21st, The Palmer began its 13-knot transit from Rothera to Thwaites Glacier. Peering down the face of the ice into the water, one can barely see the 90 percent of the ice that rests below the surface. Projects Proposed methods to study the Thwaites Glacier, labled with project acronyms/abbreviations. © 2020 CIRES is a partnership of NOAA and the University of Colorado Boulder. Thwaites Glacier (in darker blue) 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. Site by, Life on the Research Icebreaker Nathaniel B. Palmer. Its melting already contributes 4% of global sea level rise and there are fears that it could become unstable and contribute many metres to global sea level. Pine Island Glacier and Thwaites Glacier together account for 3% of grounded ice-sheet area, but they receive 7% of Antarctica’s snowfall 1. The gliders’ small size and lack of sophisticated moving parts allow collection of physical and chemical oceanographic information in hard to reach places for long periods at a time. Houston, TX 77005 USA This is the last in a series of deep dives into the science and people of the Nathaniel B. Palmer’s 2019 voyage to Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. A look at maps of the region's ice loss makes this clear, says Nick Holschuh, a geologist at Amherst College. However, they are rapidly melting due to the warming climate. More than 2000 km 2 of new data were acquired immediately offshore the western Thwaites Ice Shelf in an area previously made inaccessible by … A file photo of the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica, known as the 'Doomsday Glacier'. We wake early on the 7th to find ourselves gone from Thwaites. Thwaites Glacier and the surrounding coastal region alone could raise sea levels by half a meter (1.6 feet) within 100 years. THOR team members Rob Larter, Becky Totten Minzoni, and Ali Graham look over the jumbo gravity core collected on the 28th of February. The Palmer mapped a new ice-free boundary that is 18 km further south than in 2006. Its mission was to look for features of recent glacial retreat and measure Circumpolar Deep Water properties near the glacier front. The weather for the next two days was expected to worsen, so this day was the perfect day to get as close to the shelf terminus as possible. Thwaites Glacier accounts for one-third of the mass loss from the ASE.” Scientists discovered the hole thanks to Italian and German satellites, as well as NASA’s Operation IceBridge, a program that since 2010 has used ice-penetrating radar aboard aircraft flying over Antarctica to study connections between polar regions and global climate. Thwaites, if it went bad, would behave nothing like that. “The more this marine ice sheet instability occurs, the wider the range of possible future sea level rise becomes,” Robel says. Along the 150-kilometer ice front, the satellite images show two different types of ice shelves. Lars Boehme and his team were gifted with a perfect day to look for seals on ice floes north of the eastern ice shelf, successfully tagging two of the four they found. Read all … The grounding line is where the glacier transitions from resting on the bedrock to a floating ice shelf in the Amundsen Sea. Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica, is of particular concern to scientists. Thwaites Glacier is roughly the size of UK (176 x10 3 km 2). They are sometimes hard to find because their original location may be caught and moved by giant icebergs. The red track on 8 March 2019 ice data shows how quickly sea ice conditions can change over 5 days. Thwaites Glacier ice shelf extends about 15 kilometers beyond the grounding line. on the far east side of the Thwaites ice shelf in an area that has recently become ice free. The captain maintained that weather and ice conditions would determine just how close we would get to the face of the calving front, which would in turn determine just how much data we could gather beneath the shelf front with our now very well tested array of instruments. The image shows “reflectors”- created by sound waves of a particular frequency that can penetrate below the seafloor, are reflected back to the ship and then processed to create this image of the seafloor contours, the scale of which is greatly exaggerated, and sedimentary layers. There and gone….but going back again. Glaciers everywhere might be melting, but only one has earned the most terrifying nickname: the Doomsday Glacier. It's a giant mass of more than 192,000 square kilometers (74,000 square miles) -- … 6100 Main Street “Not only that, b… As of the 6th of March, THOR collected 14 cores from six sites, with the first three gathered in the early hours of the 27th from a site that was identified from the initial multibeam survey line at the face of the ice shelf. The unexpectedly calm waters enabled the Palmer to map at a quarter of a nautical mile of the calving front of the ice shelf. Thwaites glacier, on the west of Antarctica, is a remote place, around 1000 miles from US and UK research stations. Moorings are stationary instruments that collect ocean data over several years. Six coring sites and the 14 cores that were collected to try and sample a variety of depths and places that may record the past behavior of the ice shelf. Bastien Queste manages the deployment and monitoring of gliders for California Institute of Technology and the University of East Anglia. The 26th of February dawns gloomy but calm, a perfect backdrop for the towering 30-40 meter wall of the eastern ice tongue, the crystalline face fractured and glowing deep teal to cobalt in the fissures and cavities. MS-126 The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration is performing some magnificent science, conducting the most ambitious fieldwork ever undertaken at the tip of what is one of the most significant glaciers on Earth. These profiles are collected simultaneously with the bathymetry data to help the THOR team find places to collect core samples. The ice shelf currently extends 15 km beyond the grounding line, which marks the transition from the land-based ice stream. We are there to conduct additional physical oceanography measurements and to collect moorings. This is the first time since 2000 that the Palmer has been to Thwaites, with only one other more recent survey conducted by the Polar Stern in 2006. Rice University Here, warm water is pushed up onto the continental shelf, where it flows along the bottom until it reaches the floating ice shelf in front of Thwaites Glacier. They wanted to understand how possible scenarios of future sea level rise might change over time as a result of marine ice sheet instability. That texture is created by crevassing of the ice as it moves past the grounding line. 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