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Buckling rate and overhang development at a calving face

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Using the finite-element we have modeled the stress field near the calving face of an idealized tidewater glacier under a variety of assumptions about submarine calving-face height, subaerial calving-face height, and ice rheology. These simulations all suggest that a speed maximum should be present at the calving face near the waterline. In experiments without crevassing, the decrease in horizontal velocity above this maximum culminates in a zone of longitudinal compression at the surface somewhat up-glacier from the face. This zone of compression appears to be a consequence of the non-linear rheology of ice. It disappears when a linear rheology is assumed. Explorations of the near-surface stress field indicate that when pervasive crevassing of the surface ice is accounted for in the simulations (by rheological softening), the zone of compressive strain rates does not develop. Variations in the pattern of horizontal velocity with glacier thickness support the contention that calving rates should increase with water depth at the calving face. In addition, the height of the subaerial calving face may have an importance that is not visible in current field data owing to the lack of variation in height of such faces in nature. Glaciers with lower calving faces may not have sufficient tensile stress to calve actively, while tensile stresses in simulated higher faces are sufficiently high that such faces will be unlikely to build in nature.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2003-12-01

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  • 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.

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