A Northumbria University researcher is one of almost 100 scientists and support staff who have travelled to Antarctica this week (15 November 2019) for the most ambitious mission to date for Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. As part of the £20 million International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), researchers from the United States and United Kingdom will work in one of the most remote and inhospitable areas on Earth.

What is Thwaites Glacier and why is it so important?

At 74,000 square miles, the Thwaites Glacier covers an area the size of Florida or Great Britain. It is particularly susceptible to climate and ocean changes. Over the past 30 years, the amount of ice flowing out of the region has nearly doubled. Computer models show that over the next several decades, the glacier may lose ice even more rapidly, as ice retreat progresses. Already, ice draining from Thwaites into the Amundsen Sea accounts for about four percent of global sea level rise. A run-away collapse of the glacier would lead to a significant increase in sea levels of around 65cm (25 inches) over the coming centuries.

The collaboration is undertaking eight research projects focusing on different aspects of the glacier and its environment to understand the glacier, the surrounding ocean system and its future contribution to global sea level. The study aims to understand how the Glacier is behaving and to establish whether it is likely to begin to collapse within the next few decades or within centuries. Read more.