Collaborative Research: Synthesis of Thwaites Glacier Dynamics: Diagnostic and Prognostic Sensitivity Studies of a West Antarctic Outlet System
This award supports a three-year study to isolate essential physical processes affecting Thwaites Glacier (TG) in the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) of West Antarctica using a suite of existing numerical models in conjunction with existing and International Polar Year (IPY)-proposed data sets. Four different models will be utilized to explore the effects of embayment geometry, ice-shelf buttressing, basal-stress distribution, surface mass balance, surface climate, and inland dynamic perturbations on the present and future dynamics of TG. This particular collection of models is ideally suited for the broad nature of this investigation, as they incorporate efficient and complementary simplifications of the stress field (shallow-ice and shelf-stream), system geometry (1-d and 2-d plan-view and flowline; depth-integrated and depth-dependent), and mass-momentum energy coupling (mechanical and thermo-mechanical). The models will be constrained and validated by data sets (including regional maps of ice thickness, surface elevation, basal topography, ice surface velocity, and potential fields) and geophysical data analyses (including increasing the spatial resolution of surface elevations, improving regional estimates of geothermal flux, and characterizing the sub-glacial interface of grounded ice as well as the grounding-zone transition between grounded and floating ice). The intellectual merit of the research focuses on several of the NSF Glaciology program's emphases, including: ice dynamics, numerical modeling, and remote sensing of ice sheets. In addition, the research directly addresses the following specific NSF objectives: "investigation of the physics of fast glacier flow with emphasis on processes at glacier beds"; "investigation of ice-shelf stability"; and "identification and quantification of the feedback between ice dynamics and climate change". The broader impacts of this research effort will help answer societally relevant questions of future ice sheet stability and sea-level change. The research also will aid in the early career development of two young investigators and will contribute to the education of both graduate and undergraduate students directly involved in the research, and results will be incorporated into courses and informal presentations.
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