UH Moment

UH Moment: How the Thwaites Glacier is Affecting Global Sea Levels

Our work is aimed at understanding how fast the glacier has responded to change in the past and therefore how fast might it change in the future.

The Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica is rapidly melting causing sea levels to rise. Thwaites already accounts for 4 percent of global sea-level rise, and scientists believe the rate could

dramatically increase in the near future.  

“Should the Thwaites Glacier totally collapse, it could contribute about one meter to global sea level rise and flood many coastal communities,” said Julia Wellner, a sedimentary geologist and assistant professor in the University of Houston Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.

The U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.K Natural Environmental Research Council are launching the $25 million International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, which includes eight individual projects, to study the glacier and its future effects on global sea-level. Wellner will lead one of the projects studying sediments from beneath the ice.

“Thwaites Glacier is sitting in water that is warming, therefore it is being melted from underneath. That is why we need to study that margin,” Wellner said.

Wellner and a team of researchers from multiple universities, including Rice, will take two trips to Antarctica. Their findings will be used to model future melting of the glacier.

“Our work is aimed at understanding how fast the glacier has responded to change in the past and therefore how fast might it change in the future,” Wellner said.

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