2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
United States Antarctic Program United States Antarctic Program Logo National Science Foundation Logo
2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level (THWAITES-MELT)

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C-444-M Research Location(s): Eastern Thwaites Ice Shelf


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1739003 / NERC Award NE/S006656/1

Program Manager:
Dr. Paul Cutler

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Carrie Schaffner / Leslie Blank

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. David Holland
Department of Earth Sciences
New York, New York

Dr. Keith Nicholls
British Antarctic Survey
Polar Oceans Team
Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: McMurdo Station
Research Locations: Eastern Thwaites Ice Shelf


Thwaites Glacier is a primary contributor to sea-level rise, and its flow is accelerating. This faster flow is a response to reduced buttressing from a thinning, floating ice shelf caused by ocean-driven melting from below. The degree to which sea-level rise will occur therefore depends largely on ice-ocean interaction beneath Antarctic ice shelves. Researchers will use autonomous sensors to monitor the ice column and ocean beneath the ice shelf in the critical area of the grounding line (where the glacier goes afloat). They will use airborne radar flights to study ice flow, seismic surveys to study the ocean floor under the ice shelf, and a remotely operated vehicle, Icefin, to examine the waters beneath the ice shelf. Ocean moorings will be used to monitor ocean conditions for a year or more. Ground-based phase-sensitive radar will monitor the basal melt rate.

Field Season Overview

This is the first year of a three-year science event. After completing aerial reconnaissance to confirm a safe landing area, a research team of two, plus a mountaineer, will deploy from WAIS Divide field camp to a location in the grounding zone of the Eastern Ice Shelf of Thwaites Glacier. Once on site the team will conduct an active seismic survey on foot to identify a target area for drilling operations that will be conducted in the 2019-20 field season. If additional landing sites are confirmed, team members will install instruments at other grounding-zone sites over the central Eastern Ice Shelf, as travel conditions permit.

Deploying Team Members

  • Sridhar Anandakrishnan (Co-PI)
  • Kiya Riverman