• Analysis of low-frequency seismic signals generated during a multiple-iceberg calving event at Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

      Walter, Fabian; Amundson, Jason M.; O'Neel, Shad; Truffer, Martin; Fahnestock, Mark; Fricker, Helen A. (American Geophysical Union, 2012-03-27)
      We investigated seismic signals generated during a large-scale, multiple iceberg calving event that occurred at Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, on 21 August 2009. The event was recorded by a high-rate time-lapse camera and five broadband seismic stations located within a few hundred kilometers of the terminus. During the event two full-glacier-thickness icebergs calved from the grounded (or nearly grounded) terminus and immediately capsized; the second iceberg to calve was two to three times smaller than the first. The individual calving and capsize events were well-correlated with the radiation of low-frequency seismic signals (<0.1 Hz) dominated by Love and Rayleigh waves. In agreement with regional records from previously published ‘glacial earthquakes’, these low-frequency seismic signals had maximum power and/or signal-to-noise ratios in the 0.05–0.1 Hz band. Similarly, full waveform inversions indicate that these signals were also generated by horizontal single forces acting at the glacier terminus. The signals therefore appear to be local manifestations of glacial earthquakes, although the magnitudes of the signals (twice-time integrated force histories) were considerably smaller than previously reported glacial earthquakes. We thus speculate that such earthquakes may be a common, if not pervasive, feature of all full-glacier-thickness calving events from grounded termini. Finally, a key result from our study is that waveform inversions performed on low-frequency, calving-generated seismic signals may have only limited ability to quantitatively estimate mass losses from calving. In particular, the choice of source time function has little impact on the inversion but dramatically changes the earthquake magnitude. Accordingly, in our analysis, it is unclear whether the smaller or larger of the two calving icebergs generated a larger seismic signal.
    • Glacier, fjord, and seismic response to recent large calving events, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

      Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, M.; Luthi, M. P.; Fahnestock, M.; West, M.; Motyka, R. J. (American Geophysical Union, 2008-11-18)
      The recent loss of Jakobshavn Isbræ’s extensive floating ice tongue has been accompanied by a change in near terminus behavior. Calving currently occurs primarily in summer from a grounded terminus, involves the detachment and overturning of several icebergs within 30 – 60 min, and produces long-lasting and far-reaching ocean waves and seismic signals, including ‘‘glacial earthquakes’’. Calving also increases near-terminus glacier velocities by 3% but does not cause episodic rapid glacier slip, thereby contradicting the originally proposed glacial earthquake mechanism. We propose that the earthquakes are instead caused by icebergs scraping the fjord bottom during 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Quantifying flow and stress in ice mélange, the world’s largest granular material.

      Burton, J. C.; Amundson, Jason M.; Cassotto, R.; Kuo, C. C.; Dennin, M. (PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018-03-29)
      Tidewater glacier fjords are often filled with a collection of calved icebergs, brash ice, and sea ice. For glaciers with high calving rates, this “m ́elange” of ice can be jam-packed, so that the flow of ice fragments is mostly determined by granular interactions. In the jammed state, ice m ́elange has been hypothesized to influence iceberg calving and capsize, dispersion and attenuation of ocean waves, injection of freshwater into fjords, and fjord circulation. However, detailed measurements of ice m ́elange are lacking due to difficulties in instrumenting remote, ice-choked fjords. Here we characterize the flow and associated stress in icem ́elange, using a combination of terrestrial radar data, laboratory experiments, and numerical simulations. We find that, during periods of terminus quiescence, ice m ́elange experiences laminar flow over timescales of hours to days. The uniform flow fields are bounded by shear margins along fjord walls where force chains between granular icebergs terminate. In addition, the average force per unit width that is transmitted to the glacier terminus, which can exceed 107N/m, increases exponentially with them ́elange length-to-width ratio. These “buttressing” forces are sufficiently high to inhibit the initiation of large-scale calving events, supporting the notion that ice m ́elange can be viewed as a weak granular ice shelf that transmits stresses from fjord walls back to glacier termini.
    • 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.
    • A unifying framework for iceberg-calving models

      Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin (International Glaciological Society, 2010-07-09)
      We propose a general framework for iceberg-calving models that can be applied to any calving margin. The framework is based on mass continuity, the assumption that calving rate and terminus velocity are not independent and the simple idea that terminus thickness following a calving event is larger than terminus thickness at the event onset. The theoretical, near steady-state analysis used to support and analyze the framework indicates that calving rate is governed, to first order, by ice thickness, thickness gradient, strain rate, mass-balance rate and backwards melting of the terminus; the analysis furthermore provides a physical explanation for a previously derived empirical relationship for ice-shelf calving (Alley and others, 2008). In the calving framework the pre- and post-calving terminus thicknesses are given by two unknown but related functions. The functions can vary independently of changes in glacier flow and geometry, and can therefore account for variations in calving behavior due to external forcings and/or self-sustaining calving processes (positive feedbacks). Although the calving framework does not constitute a complete calving model, any thickness-based calving criterion can easily be incorporated into the framework. The framework should be viewed as a guide for future attempts to parameterize calving.