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Testing crevasse-depth models: a field study at Breiðamerkurjökull, Iceland

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Interest in crevasses and associated ice-fracture processes has recently increased due to recognition of the importance of calving glaciers to the mass balance of the cryosphere, as well as the importance of fractures in glacier hydrology. Recently developed calving criteria make use of models which predict crevasse depth from surface strain rates, but these models have rarely been tested against observations. In this study, we present data on crevasse depth and surface strain rates, and compare the measured values with results of two crevasse-depth models: a simple function proposed by Nye and a linear elastic fracture mechanics (LEFM) model developed by Van der Veen. Our results indicate that both models predict crevasse depths within the correct order of magnitude. The LEFM model, incorporating measured values of crevasse spacing and tuned for fracture toughness, performs better in predicting crevasse depths, but where lack of input data precludes such tuning, the results are similar to Nye's model predictions. We conclude that both models may be used to calculate crevasse depths in calving models, although the Nye function is undoubtedly much simpler to implement within an ice-dynamics model.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: September 1, 2009

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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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