Pathways and modification of warm water flowing beneath Thwaites Ice Shelf, West Antarctica

A.K. Wåhlin*, A. Graham, K.A. Hogan, B.Y. Queste, Lars Boehme, R. Larter, E. Pettit, J. Wellner, K.J. Heywood

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)
3 Downloads (Pure)


Thwaites Glacier is the most rapidly changing outlet of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and adds large uncertainty to 21st century sea-level rise predictions. Here, we present the first direct observations of ocean temperature, salinity, and oxygen beneath Thwaites Ice Shelf front, collected by an autonomous underwater vehicle. On the basis of these data, pathways and modification of water flowing into the cavity are identified. Deep water underneath the central ice shelf derives from a previously underestimated eastern branch of warm water entering the cavity from Pine Island Bay. Inflow of warm and outflow of melt-enriched waters are identified in two seafloor troughs to the north. Spatial property gradients highlight a previously unknown convergence zone in one trough, where different water masses meet and mix. Our observations show warm water impinging from all sides on pinning points critical to ice-shelf stability, a scenario that may lead to unpinning and retreat.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbereabd7254
Number of pages10
JournalScience Advances
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2021


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