June 19, 2017
The Amundsen Sea sector is experiencing the largest mass loss, glacier acceleration, and grounding line retreat in Antarctica. Enhanced intrusion of Circumpolar Deep Water onto the continental shelf has been proposed as the primary forcing mechanism for the retreat. Here we investigate the dynamics and evolution of Thwaites Glacier with a novel, fully coupled, ice-ocean numerical model. We obtain a significantly improved agreement with the observed pattern of glacial retreat using the coupled model. Coupled simulations over the coming decades indicate a continued mass loss at a sustained rate. Uncoupled simulations using a depth-dependent parameterization of sub-ice-shelf melt significantly overestimate the rate of grounding line retreat compared to the coupled model, as the parameterization does not capture the complexity of the ocean circulation associated with the formation of confined cavities during the retreat. Bed topography controls the pattern of grounding line retreat, while oceanic thermal forcing impacts the rate of grounding line retreat. The importance of oceanic forcing increases with time as Thwaites grounding line retreats farther inland. read this article