There are several cases in which large overthrusts and sub-horizontal faults appear to have occurred in temperate or cold glaciers. As a contribution to solving the problem of their origin, the stress field when there is an abrupt change in the bottom boundary conditions is determined, assuming ice to be isotropic, third-power-law viscous. Deviatoric stresses vary with the distance r to the singularity as r-1/4, and strain rates as r-3/4. They are computed numerically to a multiplicative factor, which is determined by the conditions at a large distance, but not computed here. Although the apparent viscosity varies as r1/2 times a function of the polar angle, the stress field around the singularity is not essentially different from that obtained assuming a constant viscosity. Some considerations on the apparition of faults follow, but at the scale of the microrelief the adopted model becomes oversimplified.
The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.