• Formation, flow and break-up of ephemeral ice mélange at LeConte Glacier and Bay, Alaska.

      Amundson, Jason M.; Kienholz, Christian; Hager, Alexander O.; Jackson, Rebecca H.; Motyka, Roman J.; Nash, Jonathan D.; Sutherland, David A. (Cambridge University Press, 2020-05-14)
      Ice mélange has been postulated to impact glacier and fjord dynamics through a variety of mechanical and thermodynamic couplings. However, observations of these interactions are very limited. Here, we report on glaciological and oceanographic data that were collected from 2016 to 2017 at LeConte Glacier and Bay, Alaska, and serendipitously captured the formation, flow and break-up of ephemeral ice mélange. Sea ice formed overnight in mid-February. Over the subsequent week, the sea ice and icebergs were compacted by the advancing glacier terminus, after which the ice mélange flowed quasi-statically. The presence of ice mélange coincided with the lowest glacier velocities and frontal ablation rates in our record. In early April, increasing glacier runoff and the formation of a sub-ice-mélange plume began to melt and pull apart the ice mélange. The plume, outgoing tides and large calving events contributed to its break-up, which took place over a week and occurred in pulses. Unlike observations from elsewhere, the loss of ice mélange integrity did not coincide with the onset of seasonal glacier retreat. Our observations provide a challenge to ice mélange models aimed at quantifying the mechanical and thermodynamic couplings between ice mélange, glaciers and fjords.
    • Tidewater glacier response to individual calving events

      Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Zwinger, Thomas (Cambridge University Press, 2022-03-15)
      Tidewater glaciers have been observed to experience instantaneous, stepwise increases in velocity during iceberg-calving events due to a loss of resistive stresses. These changes in stress can potentially impact tidewater glacier stability by promoting additional calving and affecting the viscous delivery of ice to the terminus. Using flow models and perturbation theory, we demonstrate that calving events and subsequent terminus readvance produce quasi-periodic, sawtooth oscillations in stress that originate at the terminus and propagate upstream. The stress perturbations travel at speeds much greater than the glacier velocities and, for laterally resisted glaciers, rapidly decay within a few ice thickness of the terminus. Consequently, because terminus fluctuations due to individual calving events tend to be much higher frequency than climate variations, individual calving events have little direct impact on the viscous delivery of ice to the terminus. This suggests that the primary mechanism by which calving events can trigger instability is by causing fluctuations in stress that weaken the ice and lead to additional calving and sustained terminus retreat. Our results further demonstrate a stronger response to calving events in simulations that include the full stress tensor, highlighting the importance of accounting for higher order stresses when developing calving parameterizations.