Study shows undersea valleys beneath Totten Glacier ice shelf

A recent published study led by University of Texas Institute for Geophysics (UTIG) Ph.D. candidate Jamin Greenbaum has been highlighted in newspaper articles in the Austin American-Statesman and the Washington Post.

The study suggests the ice sheets of Totten Glacier in East Antarctica may be in danger of melting more quickly than initially estimated.

Greenbaum spoke to the American-Statesman for an article that appeared online July 6 (subscription required). Earlier this year, Greenbaum’s comments appeared in a Washington Post article in March.

The study, which appeared earlier this year in Nature Geoscience, utilized ice-penetrating radar, laser altimetry and gravitational measurements to determine what was beneath the thick ice shelves.

As noted in the Post article by Chris Mooney (@chriscmooney), the research led to the discovery of a pair of undersea valleys beneath the ice shelf, which could be allowing warm ocean water access to the glacier’s base, and could subsequently accelerate melting.

Asked about the takeaway from the study, Greenbaum stated, “It’s a bad idea to say West Antarctica is losing mass while East Antarctica is gaining mass since there is a large area in East Antarctica that is also losing mass. What’s more, the part of the East Antarctic coast that is losing mass is an ice plug holding back 11 feet of sea level potential.”

Greenbaum works under the direction of UTIG senior research scientist Don Blankenship. Dr. Blankenship, research scientist Dr. Duncan Young and research scientist associate Tom Richter are the other UTIG personnel credited as co-authors on the study.


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