Recent Submissions

  • Morainal Bank Evolution and Impact on Terminus Dynamics During a Tidewater Glacier Stillstand

    Eidam, E. F.; Sutherland, D. A.; Duncan, D.; Kienholz, Christian; Amundson, Jason M.; Motyka, R. J. (American Geophysical Union, 2020-09-25)
    Sedimentary processes are known to help facilitate tidewater glacier advance, but their role in modulating retreat is uncertain and poorly quantified. In this study we use repeated seafloor bathymetric surveys and satellite‐derived terminus positions from LeConte Glacier, Alaska, to evaluate the evolution of a morainal bank and related changes in terminus dynamics over a 17‐year period. The glacier experienced a rapid retreat between 1994 and 1999, before stabilizing at a constriction in the fjord. Since then, the glacier terminus has remained stabilized while constructing a morainal bank up to 140 m high in water depths of 240–260 m, with rates of sediment delivery of 3.3 Å~ 105 to 3.8 Å~ 105 m3 a−1. Based on repeated interannual surveys between 2016 and 2018, the moraine is a dynamic feature characterized by push ridges, evidence of active gravity flows, and bulldozing by the glacier at rates of up to meters per day. Beginning in 2016, the summertime terminus has become increasingly retracted, revealing a newly emerging basin potentially signaling the onset of renewed retreat. Between 2000 and 2016, the growing moraine reduced the exposed submarine area of the terminus by up to 22%, altered the geometry of the terminus during seasonal advances, and altered the terminus stress balance. These feedbacks for calving, melting, and ice flow likely represent mechanisms whereby moraine growth may delay glacier retreat, in a system where readvance is unlikely.
  • 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.
  • Deglacierization of a marginal basin and implications for outburst floods

    Kienholz, Christian; Pierce, Jamie; Hood, Eran; Amundson, Jason M.; Wolken, Gabriel; Jacobs, Aaron; Hart, Skye; Jones, Katreen Wikstrom; Abdel-Fattah, Dina; Johnson, Crane; et al. (Frontiers in Earth Science, 2020-05-27)
    Suicide Basin is a partly glacierized marginal basin of Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, that has released glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) annually since 2011. The floods cause inundation and erosion in the Mendenhall Valley, impacting homes and other infrastructure. Here, we utilize in-situ and remote sensing data to assess the recent evolution and current state of Suicide Basin. We focus on the 2018 and 2019 melt seasons, during which we collected most of our data, partly using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). To provide longer-term context, we analyze DEMs collected since 2006 and model glacier surface mass balance over the 2006–2019 period. During the 2018 and 2019 outburst flood events, Suicide Basin released ∼ 30 Å~ 106 m3 of water within approximately 4–5 days. Since lake drainage was partial in both years, these ∼ 30 Å~ 106 m3 represent only a fraction (∼ 60%) of the basin’s total storage capacity. In contrast to previous years, subglacial drainage was preceded by supraglacial outflow over the ice dam, which lasted ∼ 1 day in 2018 and 6 days in 2019. Two large calving events occurred in 2018 and 2019, with submerged ice breaking off the main glacier during lake filling, thereby increasing the basin’s storage capacity. In 2018, the floating ice in the basin was 36 m thick on average. In 2019, ice thickness was 29 m, suggesting rapid decay of the ice tongue despite increasing ice inflow from Mendenhall Glacier. The ice dam at the basin entrance thinned by more than 5 m a–1 from 2018 to 2019, which is approximately double the rate of the reference period 2006–2018. While ice-dam thinning reduces water storage capacity in the basin, that capacity is increased by declining ice volume in the basin and longitudinal lake expansion, with the latter process challenging to predict. The potential for premature drainage onset (i.e., drainage before the lake’s storage capacity is reached), intermittent drainage decelerations, and early drainage termination further complicates prediction of future GLOF events.
  • MABEL photon-counting laser altimetry data in Alaska for ICESat-2 simulations and development

    Brunt, Kelly M.; Neumann, Thomas A.; Amundson, Jason M.; Kavanaugh, Jeffrey L.; Moussavi, Mahsa S.; Walsh, Kaitlin M.; Cook, William B.; Markus, Thorsten (Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union, 2016-08-10)
    Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) is scheduled to launch in late 2017 and will carry the Advanced Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS) which is a photon-counting laser altimeter and represents a new approach to satellite determination of surface elevation. Given the new technology of ATLAS, an airborne instrument, the Multiple Altimeter Beam Experimental Lidar (MABEL), was developed to provide data needed for satellite-algorithm development and ICESat-2 error analysis. MABEL was deployed out of Fairbanks, Alaska, in July 2014 to provide a test dataset for algorithm development in summer conditions with water-saturated snow and ice surfaces. Here we compare MABEL lidar data to in situ observations in Southeast Alaska to assess instrument performance in summer conditions and in the presence of glacier surface melt ponds and a wet snowpack. Results indicate the following: (1) based on MABEL and in situ data comparisons, the ATLAS 90m beam-spacing strategy will provide a valid assessment of across-track slope that is consistent with shallow slopes (< 1) of an ice-sheet interior over 50 to 150m length scales; (2) the dense along-track sampling strategy of photon counting systems can provide crevasse detail; and (3) MABEL 532 nm wavelength light may sample both the surface and subsurface of shallow (approximately 2m deep) supraglacial melt ponds. The data associated with crevasses and melt ponds indicate the potential ICESat-2 will have for the study of mountain and other small glaciers.
  • Testing a glacial erosion rule using hang heights of hanging valleys, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada

    Amundson, Jason M.; Iverson, N. R. (American Geophysical Union, 2006)
    In most models of glacial erosion, glacier sliding velocity is hypothesized to control rates of bedrock erosion. If this hypothesis is correct, then the elevation difference between hanging and trunk valley floors, the hang height, should be dictated by the relative sliding velocities of the glaciers that occupied these valleys. By considering sliding velocity to be proportional to balance velocity and using mass continuity, hang height is expressed in terms of glacier catchment areas, slopes, and widths, which can be estimated for past glaciers from the morphology of glacial valleys. These parameters were estimated for 46 hanging valleys and their trunk valleys in three adjacent regions of Jasper National Park. The variability in valley morphology can account for 55–85% of the hang height variability if erosion rate scales with balance velocity raised to a power of 1/3. This correspondence is in spite of spatial variations in glaciation duration, snow accumulation rates, and other variables that likely affected hang heights but cannot be readily estimated and so are not included in our formulation. Thus it appears that balance velocity, and by extension, sliding velocity if the two are proportional, may be a reasonable control variable for assessing erosion rate.
  • A computational investigation of iceberg capsize as a driver of explosive ice-shelf disintegration.

    Amundson, Jason M.; Guttenberg, Nicolas; Abbott, Dorian S.; Burton, Justin C.; Cathles, L. M.; Macayeal, Douglas R.; Zhang, Wendy W. (International Glaciology Society, 2011)
    Potential energy released from the capsize of ice-shelf fragments (icebergs) is the immediate driver of the brief explosive phase of ice-shelf disintegration along the Antarctic Peninsula (e.g. the Larsen A, Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves). The majority of this energy powers the rapidly expanding plume of ice-shelf fragments that expands outward into the open ocean; a smaller fraction of this energy goes into surface gravity waves and other dynamic interactions between ice and water that can sustain the continued fragmentation and break-up of the original ice shelf. As an initial approach to the investigation of ice-shelf fragment capsize in ice-shelf collapse, we develop a simple conceptual model involving ideal rectangular icebergs, initially in unstable or metastable orientations, which are assembled into a tightly packed mass that subsequently disassembles via massed capsize. Computations based on this conceptual model display phenomenological similarity to aspects of real ice-shelf collapse. A promising result of the conceptual model presented here is a description of how iceberg aspect ratio and its statistical variance, the two parameters related to ice-shelf fracture patterns, influence the enabling conditions to be satisfied by slow-acting processes (e.g. environmentally driven melting) that facilitate ice-shelf disintegration.
  • Non-linear glacier response to calving events, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

    Cassoto, Ryan; Fahnestock, Mark; Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Boettcher, Margaret S.; De La Pena, Santiago; Howat, Ian (International Glaciological Society, 2018-11-29)
    Jakobshavn Isbræ, a tidewater glacier that produces some of Greenland’s largest icebergs and highest speeds, reached record-high flow rates in 2012 (Joughin and others, 2014). We use terrestrial radar interferometric observations from August 2012 to characterize the events that led to record-high flow. We find that the highest speeds occurred in response to a small calving retreat, while several larger calving events produced negligible changes in glacier speed. This non-linear response to calving events suggests the terminus was close to flotation and therefore highly sensitive to terminus position. Our observations indicate that a glacier’s response to calving is a consequence of two competing feedbacks: (1) an increase in strain rates that leads to dynamic thinning and faster flow, thereby promoting desta- bilization, and (2) an increase in flow rates that advects thick ice toward the terminus and promotes restabilization. The competition between these feedbacks depends on temporal and spatial variations in the glacier’s proximity to flotation. This study highlights the importance of dynamic thinning and advective processes on tidewater glacier stability, and further suggests the latter may be limiting the current retreat due to the thick ice that occupies Jakobshavn Isbræ’s retrograde bed.
  • Active seismic studies in valley glacier settings: strategies and limitations

    Zechmann, Jenna M.; Booth, Adam D.; Truffer, Martin; Gusmeroli, Alessio; Amundson, Jason M.; Larsen, Christopher S. (International Glaciological Society, 2018-09-20)
    Subglacial tills play an important role in glacier dynamics but are difficult to characterize in situ. Amplitude Variation with Angle (AVA) analysis of seismic reflection data can distinguish between stiff tills and deformable tills. However, AVA analysis in mountain glacier environments can be problem- atic: reflections can be obscured by Rayleigh wave energy scattered from crevasses, and complex basal topography can impede the location of reflection points in 2-D acquisitions. We use a forward model to produce challenging synthetic seismic records in order to test the efficacy of AVA in crevassed and geo- metrically complex environments. We find that we can distinguish subglacial till types in moderately cre- vassed environments, where ‘moderate’ depends on crevasse spacing and orientation. The forward model serves as a planning tool, as it can predict AVA success or failure based on characteristics of the study glacier. Applying lessons from the forward model, we perform AVA on a seismic dataset col- lected from Taku Glacier in Southeast Alaska in March 2016. Taku Glacier is a valley glacier thought to overlay thick sediment deposits. A near-offset polarity reversal confirms that the tills are deformable.
  • Tracking icebergs with time-lapse photography and sparse optical flow, LeConte Bay, Alaska, 2016–2017

    Kienholtz, Christian; Amundson, Jason M.; Motyka, Roman J.; Jackson, Rebecca H.; Mickett, John B.; Sutherland, David A.; Nash, Jonathan D.; Winters, Dylan S.; Dryer, William P.; Truffer, Martin (International Glaciological Society, 2019-03-07)
    We present a workflow to track icebergs in proglacial fjords using oblique time-lapse photos and the Lucas-Kanade optical flow algorithm. We employ the workflow at LeConte Bay, Alaska, where we ran five time-lapse cameras between April 2016 and September 2017, capturing more than 400 000 photos at frame rates of 0.5–4.0 min−1 . Hourly to daily average velocity fields in map coordinates illustrate dynamic currents in the bay, with dominant downfjord velocities (exceeding 0.5 m s−1 intermittently) and several eddies. Comparisons with simultaneous Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) measurements yield best agreement for the uppermost ADCP levels (∼ 12 m and above), in line with prevalent small icebergs that trace near-surface currents. Tracking results from multiple cameras compare favorably, although cameras with lower frame rates (0.5 min−1 ) tend to underestimate high flow speeds. Tests to determine requisite temporal and spatial image resolution confirm the importance of high image frame rates, while spatial resolution is of secondary importance. Application of our procedure to other fjords will be successful if iceberg concentrations are high enough and if the camera frame rates are sufficiently rapid (at least 1 min−1 for conditions similar to LeConte Bay).
  • Direct observations of submarine melt and subsurface geometry at a tidewater glacier

    Sutherland, D. A.; Jackson, R. H.; Kienholtz, C.; Amundson, Jason M.; Dryer, W. P.; Duncan, D.; Eidam, E. F.; Motyka, R. J.; Nash, J. D. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2019-07-26)
    Ice loss from the world’s glaciers and ice sheets contributes to sea level rise, influences ocean circulation, and affects ecosystem productivity. Ongoing changes in glaciers and ice sheets are driven by submarine melting and iceberg calving from tidewater glacier margins. However, predictions of glacier change largely rest on unconstrained theory for submarine melting. Here, we use repeat multibeam sonar surveys to image a subsurface tidewater glacier face and document a time-variable, three-dimensional geometry linked to melting and calving patterns. Submarine melt rates are high across the entire ice face over both seasons surveyed and increase from spring to summer. The observed melt rates are up to two orders of magnitude greater than predicted by theory, challenging current simulations of ice loss from tidewater glaciers.
  • Subseasonal changes observed in subglacial channel pressure, size, and sediment transport

    Gimbert, Florent; Tsai, Victor C.; Amundson, Jason M.; Bartholomaus, Timothy, C.; Walter, Jacob I. (American Geophysical Union, 2016-04-07)
    Water that pressurizes the base of glaciers and ice sheets enhances glacier velocities and modulates glacial erosion. Predicting ice flow and erosion therefore requires knowledge of subglacial channel evolution, which remains observationally limited. Here we demonstrate that detailed analysis of seismic ground motion caused by subglacial water flow at Mendenhall Glacier (Alaska) allows for continuous measurement of daily to subseasonal changes in basal water pressure gradient, channel size, and sediment transport. We observe intermittent subglacial water pressure gradient changes during the melt season, at odds with common assumptions of slowly varying, low-pressure channels. These observations indicate that changes in channel size do not keep pace with changes in discharge. This behavior strongly affects glacier dynamics and subglacial channel erosion at Mendenhall Glacier, where episodic periods of high water pressure gradients enhance glacier surface velocity and channel sediment transport by up to 30% and 50%, respectively. We expect the application of this framework to future seismic observations acquired at glaciers worldwide to improve our understanding of subglacial processes.
  • A mass-flux perspective of the tidewater glacier cycle

    Amundson, Jason M. (International Glaciological Society, 2016-04-06)
    I explore the tidewater glacier cycle with a 1-D, depth- and width-integrated flow model that includes a mass-flux calving parameterization. The parameterization is developed from mass continuity arguments and relates the calving rate to the terminus velocity and the terminus balance velocity. The model demonstrates variable sensitivity to climate. From an advanced, stable configuration, a small warming of the climate triggers a rapid retreat that causes large-scale drawdown and is enhanced by positive glacier-dynamic feedbacks. Eventually, the terminus retreats out of deep water and the terminus velocity decreases, resulting in reduced drawdown and the potential for restabilization. Terminus readvance can be initiated by cooling the climate. Terminus advance into deep water is difficult to sustain, however, due to negative feedbacks between glacier dynamics and surface mass balance. Despite uncertainty in the precise form of the parameterization, the model provides a simple explanation of the tidewater glacier cycle and can be used to evaluate the response of tidewater glaciers to climate variability. It also highlights the importance of improving parameterizations of calving rates and of incorporating sediment dynamics into tidewater glacier models.
  • Subglacial discharge at tidewater glaciers revealed by seismic tremor

    Bartholomaus, Timothy C.; Amundson, Jason M.; Walter, Jacob I.; O'Neel, Shad; West, Michael E.; Larsen, Christopher F. (American Geophysical Union, 2015-08-10)
    Subglacial discharge influences glacier basal motion and erodes and redeposits sediment. At tidewater glacier termini, discharge drives submarine terminus melting, affects fjord circulation, and is a central component of proglacial marine ecosystems. However, our present inability to track subglacial discharge and its variability significantly hinders our understanding of these processes. Here we report observations of hourly to seasonal variations in 1.5–10 Hz seismic tremor that strongly correlate with subglacial discharge but not with basal motion, weather, or discrete icequakes. Our data demonstrate that vigorous discharge occurs from tidewater glaciers during summer, in spite of fast basal motion that could limit the formation of subglacial conduits, and then abates during winter. Furthermore, tremor observations and a melt model demonstrate that drainage efficiency of tidewater glaciers evolves seasonally. Glaciohydraulic tremor provides a means by which to quantify subglacial discharge variations and offers a promising window into otherwise obscured glacierized environments.
  • Seasonal and interannual variations in ice melange and its impact on terminus stability, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

    Cassotto, Ryan; Fahnestock, Mark; Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Joughin, Ian (International Glaciological Society, 2014-09-29)
    We used satellite-derived surface temperatures and time-lapse photography to infer temporal variations in the proglacial ice melange at Jakobshavn Isbræ, a large and rapidly retreating outlet glacier in Greenland. Freezing of the melange-covered fjord surface during winter is indicated by a decrease in fjord surface temperatures and is associated with (1) a decrease in ice melange mobility and (2) a drastic reduction in iceberg production. Vigorous calving resumes in spring, typically abruptly, following the steady up-fjord retreat of the sea-ice/ice-melange margin. An analysis of pixel displacement from time-lapse imagery demonstrates that melange motion increases prior to calving and subsequently decreases following several events. We find that secular changes in ice melange extent, character and persistence can influence iceberg calving, and therefore glacier dynamics over daily-to-monthly timescales, which, if sustained, will influence the mass balance of an ice sheet.
  • Dynamic jamming of iceberg-choked fjords

    Peters, Ivo R.; Amundson, Jason M.; Cassotto, Ryan; Fahnestock, Mark; Darnell, Kristopher N.; Truffer, Martin; Zhang, Wendy W. (American Geophysical Union, 2015-02-02)
    We investigate the dynamics of ice mélange by analyzing rapid motion recorded by a time-lapse camera and terrestrial radar during several calving events that occurred at Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland. During calving events (1) the kinetic energy of the ice mélange is 2 orders of magnitude smaller than the total energy released during the events, (2) a jamming front propagates through the ice mélange at a rate that is an order of magnitude faster than the motion of individual icebergs, (3) the ice mélange undergoes initial compaction followed by slow relaxation and extension, and (4) motion of the ice mélange gradually decays before coming to an abrupt halt. These observations indicate that the ice mélange experiences widespread jamming during calving events and is always close to being in a jammed state during periods of terminus quiescence. We therefore suspect that local jamming influences longer timescale ice mélange dynamics and stress transmission.
  • The morphology of supraglacial lake ogives

    Darnell, K.N.; Amundson, Jason M.; Cathles, L.M.; MacAyeal, D.R. (International Glaciological Society, 2013-02-12)
    Supraglacial lakes on grounded regions of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets sometimes produce ‘lake ogives’ or banded structures that sweep downstream from the lakes. Using a variety of remote-sensing data, we demonstrate that lake ogives originate from supraglacial lakes that form each year in the same bedrock-fixed location near the equilibrium-line altitude. As the ice flows underneath one of these lakes, an ‘image’ of the lake is imprinted on the ice surface both by summer- season ablation and by superimposed ice (lake ice) formation. Ogives associated with a lake are sequenced in time, with the downstream ogives being the oldest, and with spatial separation equal to the local annual ice displacement. In addition, lake ogives can have decimeter- to meter-scale topographic relief, much like wave ogives that form below icefalls on alpine glaciers. Our observations highlight the fact that lake ogives, and other related surface features, are a consequence of hydrological processes in a bedrock-fixed reference frame. These features should arise naturally from physically based thermodynamic models of supraglacial water transport, and thus they may serve as fiducial features that help to test the performance of such models.
  • Rapid submarine melting driven by subglacial discharge, LeConte Glacier, Alaska

    Motyka, R. J.; Dryer, William P.; Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Fahnestock, Mark (American Geophysical Union, 2013-09-27)
    We show that subglacial freshwater discharge is the principal process driving high rates of submarine melting at tidewater glaciers. This buoyant discharge draws in warm seawater, entraining it in a turbulent upwelling flow along the submarine face that melts glacier ice. To capture the effects of subglacial discharge on submarine melting, we conducted 4 days of hydrographic transects during late summer 2012 at LeConte Glacier, Alaska. A major rainstorm allowed us to document the influence of large changes in subglacial discharge. We found strong submarine melt fluxes that increased from 9.1 ± 1.0 to 16.8 ± 1.3 m d1 (ice face equivalent frontal ablation) as a result of the rainstorm. With projected continued global warming and increased glacial runoff, our results highlight the direct impact that increases in subglacial discharge will have on tidewater outlet systems. These effects must be considered when modeling glacier response to future warming and increased runoff.
  • Outlet glacier response to forcing over hourly to interannual timescales, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

    Podrasky, David; Truffer, Martin; Fahnestock, Mark; Amundson, Jason M.; Cassoto, Ryan; Joughin, Ian (International Glaciological Society, 2012-09-07)
    The loss of the floating ice tongue on Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, in the early 2000s has been concurrent with a pattern of thinning, retreat and acceleration leading to enhanced contribution to global sea level. These changes on decadal timescales have been well documented. Here we identify how the glacier responds to forcings on shorter timescales, such as from variations in surface melt, the drainage of supraglacial lakes and seasonal fluctuations in terminus position. Ice motion and surface melt were monitored intermittently from 2006 to 2008. Dual-frequency GPS were deployed 20–50 km upstream of the terminus along the glacier center line. Gaps in surface melt measurements were filled using a temperature-index model of ablation driven by surface air temperatures recorded during the same time period. Our results corroborate the premise that the primary factors controlling speeds on Jakobshavn Isbræ are terminus position and geometry. We also observe that surface speeds demonstrate a complex relationship with meltwater input: on diurnal timescales, velocities closely match changes in water input; however, on seasonal timescales a longer, more intense melt season was observed to effectively reduce the overall ice flow of the glacier for the whole year.
  • Observing calving-generated ocean waves with coastal broadband seismometers, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

    Amundson, Jason M.; Clinton, John F.; Fahnestock, Mark; Truffer, Martin; Luthi, Martin P.; Motyka, Roman J. (International Glaciological Society, 2012)
    We use time-lapse photography, MODIS satellite imagery, ocean wave measurements and regional broadband seismic data to demonstrate that icebergs that calve from Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, can generate ocean waves that are detectable over 150 km from their source. The waves, which are recorded seismically, have distinct spectral peaks, are not dispersive and persist for several hours. On the basis of these observations, we suggest that calving events at Jakobshavn Isbræ can stimulate seiches, or basin eigenmodes, in both Ilulissat Icefjord and Disko Bay. Our observations furthermore indicate that coastal, land-based seismometers located near calving termini (e.g. as part of the new Greenland Ice Sheet Monitoring Network (GLISN)) can aid investigations into the largely unexplored, oceanographic consequences of iceberg calving.
  • Impact of hydrodynamics on seismic signals generated by iceberg collisions

    Amundson, Jason M.; Burton, Justin C.; Correa-Legisos, Sergio (International Glaciological Society, 2012)
    Full-glacier-thickness icebergs are frequently observed to capsize as they calve into the ocean. As they capsize they may collide with the glaciers’ termini; previous studies have hypothesized that such collisions are the source of teleseismic ‘glacial earthquakes’. We use laboratory-scale experiments, force-balance modeling and theoretical arguments to show that (1) the contact forces during these collisions are strongly influenced by hydrodynamic forces and (2) the associated glacial earthquake magnitudes (expressed as twice-integrated force histories) are related to the energy released by the capsizing icebergs plus a hydrodynamic term that is composed of drag forces and hydrodynamic pressure. Our experiments and first-order modeling efforts suggest that, due to hydrodynamic forces, both contact force and glacial earthquake magnitudes may not be directly proportional to the energy released by the capsizing icebergs (as might be expected). Most importantly, however, our results highlight the need to better understand the hydrodynamics of iceberg capsize prior to being able to accurately interpret seismic signals generated by iceberg collisions.

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