Traces on the sea floor providing answers

Using the autonomous underwater vehicle RAN, researchers examined the seabed in front of the grounding line of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica, nicknamed the ‘Doomsday Glacier’. “This is the first ever measurement of the glacier’s previous movements, explained Anna Wåhlin, polar researcher at the University of Gothenburg.

Images show the traces left from the retreat of the ice about 100 to 200 years ago. The measurements were so detailed that we could see tiny scratches etched into the seabed created by the ebb and flow of every tide against the grounding line of the glacier – the line where the ice sheet ends and the floating ice shelves begin. “These traces are the first historical measurements we have since the ice began to retreat in historical time, and they are important input for understanding what is happening today and what could potentially happen in the future,” Wåhlin explained.