2018-2019 Science Planning Summaries
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2018-2019 USAP Field Season
Project Detail

Project Title

Stability and instability--records of external drivers and resulting behavior of Thwaites Glacier

Ice cliffs at the front of Pine Island Glacier, Thwaites Glacier’s nearest neighbor, February 2017. 
Photo by: Rob Larter
C-447-N Research Location(s): Amundsen Sea / Thwaites Ice Shelf fronts / seaward of Thwaites Glacier


Event Number:
NSF/OPP Award 1738942 / NERC Award NE/S006664/1

Program Manager:
Dr. Paul Cutler / Dr. Douglas Kowalewski

ASC POC/Implementer:
Samina Ouda / Jamee Johnson / Leslie Blank

Principal Investigator(s)

Dr. Robert David Larter
British Antarctic Survey
Cambridge, Undefined

Dr. Julia Wellner
University of Houston
Dept. of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences
Houston, Texas

Project Web Site:


Supporting Stations: RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer
Research Locations: Amundsen Sea / Thwaites Ice Shelf fronts / seaward of Thwaites Glacier


This project will conduct marine and sub-ice shelf research to: (1) establish boundary conditions seaward of the Thwaites Glacier grounding line; (2) obtain records of past external drivers of glacier change; and (3) determine the history of past changes in grounding-line migration and conditions at the glacier base. These objectives will be achieved through high-resolution geophysical surveys of the seafloor and analysis of sediment cores from the inner shelf seaward of the Thwaites Glacier grounding line. The team will use ship-based equipment and a corer deployed through the ice shelf via hot water drill holes. The results will be incorporated into numerical ocean/ice-sheet models and will improve projections of ice loss and sea-level rise originating from the glacier.

Field Season Overview

For this project, researchers will sail on the RV/IB Nathaniel B. Palmer (NBP) from Punta Arenas, Chile to their research area in the Amundsen Sea. They will sail with other Thwaites Glacier research groups (Goehring-Johnson (C-443-N), Pettit/Heywood (C-445-N), and an NSF Artists and Writers (Rush-Mueller, W-481-N) grantee and plan to collect sediment cores using a combination of jumbo-piston, box, multi (mega), and Kasten cores. To help determine the best sites for coring, they will conduct multibeam swath bathymetry and sub-bottom profiling surveys.

Deploying Team Members

  • Rachel Clark
  • Alastair Graham
  • Kelly Hogan Pires de Matos
  • James Kirkham
  • Robert Larter (PI)
  • Rebecca Minzoni
  • Frank Nitsche
  • Linda Welzenbach