Geophysical Habitat of Subglacial Thwaites

International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration - GHOST

Start date
1 June, 2018
End date
1 May, 2023

GHOST is an ice-based project which will examine the bed beneath the Thwaites Glacier, to assess whether conditions are likely to allow rapid retreat, or if the retreat may slow or stop due to a ridge 70 km inland. It will also study the conditions within and beneath the glacier to understand if they may cause its boundaries to extend. This is significant because expansion could lead to the deglaciation of neighbouring glacier basins, potentially raising global sea level by more than 3 m.

Computer modelling will be used to generate a range of bed scenarios. Geophysical surveys on the ice will collect data to test these scenarios. The surveys will use state-of-the-art technologies, such as seismic and radar, to characterise the conditions of the bed beneath the ice and to investigate how they interact.

Projecting the retreat rate of Thwaites Glacier and evaluating whether it is likely to stabilise or retreat rapidly and collapse is essential for modelling future ice sheet behaviour. In our warming world, understanding the potential contributions of glaciers such as Thwaites is critical for projecting future sea-level rise.

The overarching question that GHOST will address is will the conditions at the base of the glacier allow rapid retreat of the grounding line?

To achieve this, the team will:

  • Conduct geophysical surveys in transects along and across the glacier, and over the subglacial ridge which models suggest may be a stabilising point for the glacier during retreat.
  • Input the geophysical data collected into ice-sheet models to improve understanding of the stability of the Thwaites Glacier.