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A computational investigation of iceberg capsize as a driver of explosive ice-shelf disintegration

  • Nicholas Guttenberg (a1), Dorian S. Abbot (a2), Jason M. Amundson (a2), Justin C. Burton (a1), L. Mac Cathles (a2), Douglas R. MacAyeal (a2) and Wendy W. Zhang (a1)...

Abstract

Potential energy released from the capsize of ice-shelf fragments (icebergs) is the immediate driver of the brief explosive phase of ice-shelf disintegration along the Antarctic Peninsula (e.g. the Larsen A, Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves). The majority of this energy powers the rapidly expanding plume of ice-shelf fragments that expands outward into the open ocean; a smaller fraction of this energy goes into surface gravity waves and other dynamic interactions between ice and water that can sustain the continued fragmentation and break-up of the original ice shelf. As an initial approach to the investigation of ice-shelf fragment capsize in ice-shelf collapse, we develop a simple conceptual model involving ideal rectangular icebergs, initially in unstable or metastable orientations, which are assembled into a tightly packed mass that subsequently disassembles via massed capsize. Computations based on this conceptual model display phenomenological similarity to aspects of real ice-shelf collapse. A promising result of the conceptual model presented here is a description of how iceberg aspect ratio and its statistical variance, the two parameters related to ice-shelf fracture patterns, influence the enabling conditions to be satisfied by slow-acting processes (e.g. environmentally driven melting) that facilitate ice-shelf disintegration.

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Annals of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0260-3055
  • EISSN: 1727-5644
  • URL: /core/journals/annals-of-glaciology
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