Drivers of Change of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, Between 1995 and 2015

Thiago Dias Dos Santos*, Jowan M. Barnes, Daniel N. Goldberg, G. Hilmar Gudmundsson, Mathieu Morlighem

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
5 Downloads (Pure)


Using three independent ice-flow models and several satellite-based datasets, we assess the importance of correctly capturing ice-shelf breakup, shelf thinning, and reduction in basal traction from ungrounding in reproducing observed speed-up and thinning of Thwaites Glacier between 1995 and 2015. We run several transient numerical simulations applying these three perturbations individually. Our results show that ocean-induced ice-shelf thinning generates most of the observed grounding line retreat, inland speed-up, and mass loss, in agreement with previous work. We improve the agreement with observed inland speed-up and thinning by prescribing changes in ice-shelf geometry and a reduction in basal traction over areas that became ungrounded since 1995, suggesting that shelf breakups and thinning-induced reduction in basal traction play a critical role on Thwaites's dynamics, as pointed out by previous studies. These findings suggest that modeling Thwaites's future requires reliable ocean-induced melt estimates in models that respond accurately to downstream perturbations.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2021GL093102
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number20
Early online date30 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2021


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