Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado Boulder

Alison Banwell

Alison Banwell is a glaciologist collaborating with Waleed Abdalati at CIRES and Ted Scambos at NSIDC. Her project uses a combination of modeling, satellite remote sensing, and field-derived data analysis to investigate the formation of surface lakes on Antarctic ice shelves, and the effects of those lakes on ice-shelf stability. This is important because the most likely way for the Antarctic Ice Sheet to contribute to sea level rise over the coming centuries involves the breakup of its ice shelves, which buttress approximately 75% of the ice sheet’s edges and currently prevent the rapid discharge of inland ice into the ocean. A trigger of ice-shelf disintegration is thought to be surface-stress variations associated with surface meltwater ponding and draining, causing ice-shelf weakness, flexure, and potential fracture. For example, the widespread break-up of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in 2002 may have been partially triggered by the drainage of over 2500 surface lakes.


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  • Macdonald, G., Banwell, A., Willis, I., Mayer, D., Goodsell, B. and MacAyeal, D. (2019), Formation of pedestalled, relict lakes on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica.. J. Glaciol. Version: 1, doi:
  • Macayeal, DR; Banwell, AF; Okal, EA; Lin, JQ; Willis, IC; Goodsell, B; MacDonald, GJ (2019), Diurnal seismicity cycle linked to subsurface melting on an ice shelf. Version: 1 ANNALS OF GLACIOLOGY 60 (79) 137-157, issn: 0260-3055, doi: 10.1017/aog.2018.29
  • Siegert, M; Atkinson, A; Banwell, A; Brandon, M; Convey, P; Davies, B; Downie, R; Edwards, T; Hubbard, B; Marshall, G; Rogelj, J; Rumble, J; Stroeve, J; Vaughan, D (2019), The Antarctic Peninsula Under a 1.5 degrees C Global Warming Scenario. Version: 1 FRONTIERS IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE 7 , Art. No. 102, doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2019.00102
  • Banwell, AF; Willis, IC; Macdonald, GJ; Goodsell, B; MacAyeal, DR (2019), Direct measurements of ice-shelf flexure caused by surface meltwater ponding and drainage. Version: 1 NATURE COMMUNICATIONS 10 , Art. No. 730, issn: 2041-1723, doi: 10.1038/s41467-019-08522-5, PubMed ID: 30760715
  • Macdonald, GJ; Banwell, AF; Willis, IC; Mayer, DP; Goodsell, B; MacAyeal, DR (2019), Formation of pedestalled, relict lakes on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Version: 1 JOURNAL OF GLACIOLOGY 65 (250) 337-343, issn: 0022-1430, doi: 10.1017/jog.2019.17
  • Robel, AA; Banwell, AF (2019), A Speed Limit on Ice Shelf Collapse Through Hydrofracture. Version: 1 GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS 46 (21) 12092-12100, issn: 0094-8276, doi: 10.1029/2019GL084397
  • Macdonald, G., Banwell, A.F. and MacAyeal, D. (2018), Seasonal evolution of supraglacial lakes on a floating ice tongue, Petermann Glacier, Greenland. Ann. Glaciol. Version: 1, doi: 10.1017/aog.2018.9
  • Williamson, AG, AF Banwell, IC Willis and NS Arnold (2018), Dual-satellite (Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8) remote sensing of supraglacial lakes in Greenland. Cryosphere Version: 1 12 (9) 3045-3065, issn: 1994-0416, ids: GU8XC, doi: 10.5194/tc-12-3045-2018
  • Williamson, AG, IC Willis, NS Arnold and AF Banwell (2018), Controls on rapid supraglacial lake drainage in West Greenland: an Exploratory Data Analysis approach. J. Glaciol. Version: 1 64 (244) 208-226, issn: 0022-1430, ids: GD3RU, doi: 10.1017/jog.2018.8
  • Bell, RE, AF Banwell, LD Trusel and J Kingslake (2018), Antarctic surface hydrology and impacts on ice-sheet mass balance. Nat. Clim. Chang. Version: 1 8 (12) 1044-1052, issn: 1758-678X, ids: HC6NW, doi: 10.1038/s41558-018-0326-3
  • Williamson, AG, NS Arnold, AF Banwell and IC Willis (2017), A Fully Automated Supraglacial lake area and volume Tracking("FAST") algorithm: Development and application using MODIS imagery of West Greenland. Remote Sens. Environ. Version: 1 196 113-133, issn: 0034-4257, ids: EX7QS, doi: 10.1016/j.rse.2017.04.032
  • Banwell, AF, IC Willis, GJ Macdonald, B Goodsell, DP Mayer, A Powell and DR Macayeal (2017), Calving and rifting on the McMurdo Ice Shelf, Antarctica. Ann. Glaciol. Version: 1 58 (75) 78-87, issn: 0260-3055, ids: FW0UY, doi: 10.1017/aog.2017.12
  • Banwell, A, I Hewitt, I Willis and N Arnold (2016), Moulin density controls drainage development beneath the Greenland ice sheet. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 121 (12) 2248-2269, issn: 2169-9003, ids: EI9MI, doi: 10.1002/2015JF003801
  • MacAyeal, DR, OV Sergienko and AF Banwell (2015), A model of viscoelastic ice-shelf flexure. J. Glaciol. Version: 1 61 (228) 635-645, issn: 0022-1430, ids: CT7NQ, doi: 10.3189/2015JoG14J169
  • Banwell, AF and DR Macayeal (2015), Ice-shelf fracture due to viscoelastic flexure stress induced by fill/drain cycles of supraglacial lakes. Antarct. Sci. Version: 1 27 (6) 587-597, issn: 0954-1020, ids: DA6HW, doi: 10.1017/S0954102015000292
  • Mayaud, JR, AF Banwell, NS Arnold and IC Willis (2014), Modeling the response of subglacial drainage at Paakitsoq, west Greenland, to 21st century climate change. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 119 (12) 2619-2634, issn: 2169-9003, ids: CA2JX, doi: 10.1002/2014JF003271
  • Arnold, NS, AF Banwell and IC Willis (2014), High-resolution modelling of the seasonal evolution of surface water storage on the Greenland Ice Sheet. Cryosphere Version: 1 8 (4) 1149-1160, issn: 1994-0416, ids: AO8RU, doi: 10.5194/tc-8-1149-2014
  • Anderson, B, I Willis, B Goodsell, A Banwell, I Owens, A Mackintosh and W Lawson (2014), Annual to daily ice velocity and water pressure variations on Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Franz Josef Glacier), New Zealand. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res. Version: 1 46 (4) 919-932, issn: 1523-0430, ids: AW3YR, doi: 10.1657/1938-4246-46.4.919
  • Banwell, AF, M Caballero, NS Arnold, NF Glasser, L Mac Cathles and DR MacAyeal (2014), Supraglacial lakes on the Larsen B ice shelf, Antarctica, and at Paakitsoq, West Greenland: a comparative study. Ann. Glaciol. Version: 1 55 (66) 1-8, issn: 0260-3055, ids: AH3FX, doi: 10.3189/2014AoG66A049
  • Tedesco, M, IC Willis, MJ Hoffman, AF Banwell, P Alexander and NS Arnold (2013), Ice dynamic response to two modes of surface lake drainage on the Greenland ice sheet. Environ. Res. Lett. Version: 1 8 (3) , Art. No. 34007, issn: 1748-9326, ids: 229FL, doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/3/034007
  • Banwell, AF, IC Willis and NS Arnold (2013), Modeling subglacial water routing at Paakitsoq, W Greenland. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 118 (3) 1282-1295, issn: 2169-9003, ids: 238VC, doi: 10.1002/jgrf.20093
  • Banwell, AF, DR MacAyeal and OV Sergienko (2013), Breakup of the Larsen B Ice Shelf triggered by chain reaction drainage of supraglacial lakes. Geophys. Res. Lett. Version: 1 40 (22) 5872-5876, issn: 0094-8276, ids: 268ZX, doi: 10.1002/2013GL057694
  • Tedesco, M, M Luthje, K Steffen, N Steiner, X Fettweis, I Willis, N Bayou and A Banwell (2012), Measurement and modeling of ablation of the bottom of supraglacial lakes in western Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett. Version: 1 39 , Art. No. L02502, issn: 0094-8276, ids: 880GO, doi: 10.1029/2011GL049882
  • Gulley, JD, P Walthard, J Martin, AF Banwell, DI Benn and G Catania (2012), Conduit roughness and dye-trace breakthrough curves: why slow velocity and high dispersivity may not reflect flow in distributed systems. J. Glaciol. Version: 1 58 (211) 915-925, issn: 0022-1430, ids: 012PG, doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J115
  • Banwell, AF, IC Willis, NS Arnold, A Messerli, CJ Rye, M Tedesco and AP Ahlstrom (2012), Calibration and evaluation of a high-resolution surface mass-balance model for Paakitsoq, West Greenland. J. Glaciol. Version: 1 58 (212) 1047-1062, issn: 0022-1430, ids: 056HQ, doi: 10.3189/2012JoG12J034
  • Covington, MD, AF Banwell, J Gulley, MO Saar, I Willis and CM Wicks (2012), Quantifying the effects of glacier conduit geometry and recharge on proglacial hydrograph form. J. Hydrol. Version: 1 414 59-71, issn: 0022-1694, ids: 902ZE, doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2011.10.027
  • Banwell, AF, NS Arnold, IC Willis, M Tedesco and AP Ahlstrom (2012), Modeling supraglacial water routing and lake filling on the Greenland Ice Sheet. J. Geophys. Res.-Earth Surf. Version: 1 117 , Art. No. F04012, issn: 0148-0227, ids: 023XQ, doi: 10.1029/2012JF002393