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PROPHET logoThe ITGC is the largest collaboration between the UK and USA in Antarctica for 70 years. It has been granted £20 million in funding jointly by the UK Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and the US National Science Foundation (NSF), and is taking place over a 5 year period.

There are eight components of the ITGC, of which PROPHET is one of two modelling studies. There are also four observational studies focusing on key dynamical processes, and two looking at the historical context of the glacier and surrounding ocean. The data collected in these observational projects will feed into the modelling work of PROPHET.

The aim of PROPHET is to predict near-future changes to Thwaites Glacier using state-of-the-art ice and ocean modelling informed by accurate and extensive observational data. PROPHET aims to improve the representation of important processes of glacier dynamics within ice flow models, and use the improved models to forecast the future evolution of the glacier and its contribution to sea level rise.

The following video was created by ITGC as an overview of the whole collaboration:

The location of Thwaites glacierThwaites Glacier is located in West Antarctica, in an area known as the Amundsen Sea Embayment (ASE) on the Antarctic coastline to the south of the Pacific Ocean. It is a very important region to study, and has gathered a lot of international interest over recent years.

The glaciers in the ASE have been changing very quickly. Rising ocean temperatures and the resulting rapid ice loss means that Thwaites Glacier is under threat of entering unstable retreat, which would mean accelerated melting as more comparatively warm sea water fills the newly opening cavities under the ice. After entering unstable retreat, it would be unlikely to stop until the entire glacier has disappeared. Thwaites drains an area roughly the size of Britain, and lies on top of some of the deepest bedrock in Antarctica meaning that the ice can be very thick. If the entire glacier were to melt, it would raise global sea level by 65cm. There are fears that if this happens, it could destabilise more ice across West Antarctica.

Understanding the dynamics of Thwaites Glacier and its interactions with the atmosphere and ocean is therefore very important. We must attempt to work out how close it is to unstable retreat, and over what time scales the effects of its melting will contribute to the rising global sea level.

We have partners in the PROPHET project across other institutions in the UK and USA:

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