Skip to main content

Subcritical crack propagation as a mechanism of crevasse formation and iceberg calving

The full text article is not available for purchase.

The publisher only permits individual articles to be downloaded by subscribers.


Recent investigations of crevassing on alpine glaciers and ice shelves have been based on linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM). However, LEFM is unable to explain some aspects of crevasse formation such as the initiation of crevasse propagation from crystal-scale (mm) microcracks, the slow propagation of large fractures in ice shelves, and the acceleration of crevasse opening before breaking of the ice terminus. Here another mechanism to account for these observations is proposed: subcritical crevassing. Subcritical crack growth, documented in many materials though not yet explored in ice, is characterized by a crack velocity that scales as a power of the tensile stress intensity factor, but is much less than that associated with critical crack propagation. This mechanism allows crevasse propagation from mm-scale microcracks at velocities much lower than body wave speeds, and explains crevasse-opening accelerations in a natural way. Subcritical crevassing is theoretically explored for several simplified situations but is limited by a lack of available data on crevasse evolution.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-01-01

More about this publication?
  • 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.

    Beginning in 2016, content will be available at
  • Editorial Board
  • Information for Authors
  • Ingenta Connect is not responsible for the content or availability of external websites
  • Access Key
  • Free content
  • Partial Free content
  • New content
  • Open access content
  • Partial Open access content
  • Subscribed content
  • Partial Subscribed content
  • Free trial content
Cookie Policy
Cookie Policy
Ingenta Connect website makes use of cookies so as to keep track of data that you have filled in. I am Happy with this Find out more