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

Alison Banwell

Research Interests

My current work involves 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 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.