A novel method for predicting fracture in floating ice


Basal crevasses may play an important precursory role in determining both the location and propagation of rifts and iceberg dimensions. For example, icebergs calved recently from Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica, have the same width as surface undulations, strengthening the connection between basal crevasses, rifting and calving. We explore a novel method for estimating the heights of basal crevasses formed at the grounding lines of ice shelves and ice streams. We employ a thin-elastic beam (TEB) formulation and tensional yielding criterion to capture the physics of flexed ice at grounding lines. Observations of basal crevasse heights compare well with model predictions in the Siple Coast region of the Ross Ice Shelf. We find that the TEB method is most accurate in areas of low strain rate. We also test the method in other areas of Antarctica to produce order-of-magnitude maps of grounding-line basal crevasses and find general agreement with reported observations assuming basal crevasses develop in spatio-temporal sequence and are advected downstream. This method is computationally cheap and could be relatively easy to implement into damage-oriented large-scale ice models which aim at physically simulating calving and fracture processes.

Publication Title

Journal of Glaciology