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Modeling hydraulic fracture of glaciers using continuum damage mechanics



The presence of water-filled crevasses is known to increase the penetration depth of crevasses and this has been hypothesized to play an important role controlling iceberg calving rate. Here, we develop a continuum-damage-based poro-mechanics formulation that enables the simulation of water-filled basal and surface crevasse propagation. The formulation incorporates a scalar isotropic damage variable into a Maxwell-type viscoelastic constitutive model for glacial ice, and the effect of the water pressure on fracture propagation using the concept of effective solid stress. We illustrate the model by simulating quasi-static hydrofracture in idealized rectangular slabs of ice in contact with the ocean. Our results indicate that water-filled basal crevasses only propagate when the water pressure is sufficiently large, and that the interaction between simultaneously propagating water-filled surface and basal crevasses can have a mutually positive influence leading to deeper crevasse propagation, which can critically affect glacial stability. Therefore, this study supports the hypothesis that hydraulic fracture is a plausible mechanism for the accelerated breakdown of glaciers.

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Correspondence: Haim Waisman <>


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