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A physically based calving model applied to marine outlet glaciers and implications for the glacier dynamics

  • F.M. Nick (a1) (a2), C.J. Van Der Veen (a3), A. Vieli (a4) and D.I. Benn (a5) (a6)


We present results from numerical ice-flow models that include calving criteria based on penetration of surface and basal crevasses, which in turn is a function of longitudinal strain rates near the glacier front. The position of the calving front is defined as the point where either (1) surface crevasses reach the waterline (model CDw), or (2) surface and basal crevasses penetrate the full thickness of the glacier (model CD). For comparison with previous studies, results are also presented for a height-above-buoyancy calving model. Qualitatively, both models CDw and CD produce similar behaviour. Unlike previous models for calving, the new calving criteria are applicable to both grounded termini and floating ice shelves and tongues. The numerical ice-flow model is applied to an idealized geometry characteristic of marine outlet glaciers. Results indicate that grounding-line dynamics are less sensitive to basal topography than previously suggested. Stable grounding-line positions can be obtained even on a reverse bed slope with or without floating termini. The proposed calving criteria also allow calving losses to be linked to surface melt and therefore climate. In contrast to previous studies in which calving rate or position of the terminus is linked to local water depth, the new calving criterion is able to produce seasonal cycles of retreat and advance as observed for Greenland marine outlet glaciers. The contrasting dynamical behaviour and stability found for different calving models suggests that a realistic parameterization for the process of calving is crucial for any predictions of marine outlet glacier change.

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