U.K. jointly support research into fate of massive Antarctic glacier
of the rapidly receding Thwaites Glacier could cause as much as nine feet of
National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.K. Natural Environment Research
Council (NERC) have announced that they will jointly fund as much as $25
million in research, and make available additional funding for associated
logistical support, to understand a massive Antarctic glacier whose collapse
could significantly affect global sea level.
and NERC issued a solicitation for proposals today to support fieldwork and
modeling in the vicinity of West Antarctica's Thwaites Glacier and the adjacent
agencies will jointly support $20 to $25 million in research over the next five
years. Allocation of logistics support for field work would increase that
commitment significantly. Logistical commitments will be tailored to the needs
of the specific science projects that emerge from a joint merit review process.
in the US and UK in the past year have noted the future activity of the glacier
as an unknown and potential major concern for the fate of the enormous West
Antarctic Ice Sheet, which holds enough water to produce the equivalent of more
than 3 meters (9 feet) of global sea level rise.
glaciers like Thwaites, which recede into increasingly deep waters, are
particularly sensitive to collapse. If they do so, their movement toward the
sea would accelerate. Unlike the Arctic Ocean, where floating ice consists of
frozen salt water and melting has no direct effect on sea-level rise, the
contribution of freshwater from the Antarctic ice sheet could be enormous.
measurements indicate that the rate of ice loss near the Thwaites Glacier has
doubled in six years, and now accounts for about 10 percent of global sea level
rise. Recent studies indicate that the greatest risk for future rapid sea-level
rise now comes from the Thwaites Glacier due to the large changes already
underway, the potential contribution to sea-level rise, and the fact that a
collapse could occur within decades or centuries -- a remarkably rapid change in
relatively short geological time.
scientific uncertainty about the timing and magnitude of the collapse of West
Antarctic glaciers is an international priority that was recently underscored
by the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research in its report, Horizon
recent National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, A
Strategic Vision for NSF Investments in Antarctic and Southern Ocean Research, cited enhanced capabilities to predict
ice loss from West Antarctica as top priority for Antarctic research. It
singled out the Thwaites Glacier as a "region of particular concern."
a preparatory field season in 2018-2019, the Thwaites fieldwork is expected to
begin in the 2019-2020 Antarctic research season, which stretches from October