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A three-dimensional calving model: numerical experiments on Johnsons Glacier, Livingston Island, Antarctica

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Calving from tidewater glaciers and ice shelves accounts for around half the mass loss from both polar ice sheets, yet the process is not well represented in prognostic models of ice dynamics. Benn and others proposed a calving criterion appropriate for both grounded and floating glacier tongues or ice shelves, based on the penetration depth of transverse crevasses near the calving front, computed using Nye's formula. The criterion is readily incorporated into glacier and ice-sheet models, but has not been fully validated with observations. We apply a three-dimensional extension of Benn and others' criterion, incorporated into a full-Stokes model of glacier dynamics, to estimate the current position of the calving front of Johnsons Glacier, Antarctica. We find that two improvements to the original model are necessary to accurately reproduce the observed calving front: (1) computation of the tensile deviatoric stress opening the crevasse using the full-stress solution and (2) consideration of such a tensile stress as a function of depth. Our modelling results also suggest that Johnsons Glacier has a polythermal structure, rather than the temperate structure suggested by earlier studies.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2010

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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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