Dynamic (in)stability of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
Article first published online: 16 MAY 2013
©2013. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Volume 118, Issue 2, pages 638–655, June 2013
How to Cite
2013), Dynamic (in)stability of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surf., 118, 638–655, doi:10.1002/jgrf.20044., et al. (
- Issue published online: 18 JUL 2013
- Article first published online: 16 MAY 2013
- Accepted manuscript online: 25 FEB 2013 11:12AM EST
- Manuscript Accepted: 11 FEB 2013
- Manuscript Revised: 30 JAN 2013
- Manuscript Received: 4 JUN 2012
- subglacial processes;
 Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, has the potential to directly contribute ∼1 m to sea level and currently is losing mass and thinning rapidly. Here, we report on regional results for the Sea-level Response to Ice Sheet Evolution (SeaRISE) experiments and investigate the impact of i) spatial resolution within existing data sets, ii) grounding-zone processes, and iii) till rheology on the dynamics of this outlet glacier. In addition to the SeaRISE data sets, we use detailed aerogeophysical and satellite data from Thwaites Glacier as input to a coupled ice stream/ice-shelf/ocean-plume model that includes oceanic influences across a several kilometers wide grounding zone suggested by new, high-resolution data. Our results indicate that the ice tongue provides limited stability, and that while future atmospheric warming will likely add mass to the surface of the glacier, strong ice stream stabilization on bedrock highs narrower than the length of the grounding zone may be ephemeral if circulating waters substantially reduce basal resistance and enhance melting beneath grounded ice within this zone. However, we find that stability is significantly enhanced by effectively plastic till beds. Accurate projections of future sea level change relies on correct understanding of the till rheology as well as local basal processes near the grounding line.