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Glacier calving observed with time-lapse imagery and tsunami waves at Glaciar Perito Moreno, Patagonia



Calving plays a key role in the recent rapid retreat of glaciers around the world. However, many processes related to calving are poorly understood since direct observations are scarce and challenging to obtain. When calving occurs at a glacier front, surface-water waves arise over the ocean or a lake in front of glaciers. To study calving processes from these surface waves, we performed field observations at Glaciar Perito Moreno, Patagonia. We synchronized time-lapse photography and surface waves record to confirm that glacier calving produces distinct waves compared with local noise. A total of 1074 calving events were observed over the course of 39 d. During austral summer, calving occurred twice more frequently than in spring. The cumulative distribution of calving-interevent time interval followed exponential model, implying random occurrence of events in time. We further investigated wave properties and found that source-to-sensor distance can be estimated from wave dispersion within ~20% error. We also found that waves produced by different calving types showed similar spectra in the same frequency range between 0.05–0.2 Hz, and that the amplitude of surface waves increased with the size of calving. This study demonstrates the potential of surface-wave monitoring for understanding calving processes.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Masahiro Minowa <>


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