Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
09 Jun 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). A final paper in TC is not foreseen.
A statistical fracture model for Antarctic glaciers
Veronika Emetc, Paul Tregoning, and Malcolm Sambridge Research School of Earth Science, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
Abstract. Antarctic and Greenland hold more than 99 % of all fresh water on Earth and, therefore, can significantly influence global sea level. Predicting future ice sheet mass balance depends upon ice sheet modelling, but it is limited by knowledge of a number of processes, some of which are still poorly understood. One such process is the calving of the ice shelves, where blocks of ice break off from the ice front. However, large scale ice flow models do not include an accurate representation of this process and the most commonly used damage mechanics and fracture mechanics methods have a large number of uncertainties. Here we present an alternative, statistics-based method to model the most probable zones of nucleation of fractures. We test our theory on all main ice shelf regions in Antarctica, including the Antarctic Peninsula. We can model up to 99 % of observed fractures, with an average rate of 77 % which represents a 50 % improvement over previously used damage-based approaches, thus providing the basis for modelling calving of ice shelves. We found that classifying Antarctic ice shelf regions based on the factors that controlled fracture formation led to grouping of ice shelves/glaciers with similar physical characteristics and geometry.
Citation: Emetc, V., Tregoning, P., and Sambridge, M.: A statistical fracture model for Antarctic glaciers, The Cryosphere Discuss.,, 2017.
Veronika Emetc et al.
Veronika Emetc et al.


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Short summary
We developed a statistics-based method to identify zones of Antarctic ice shelves that are likely to fracture, with an average accuracy of 77 % when compared to observed fractures identified in optical imagery. We find that we can identify 4 main groups of ice shelf regions having similar characteristics. Our method of identifying fracture regions provides the initial step in the modelling of the propagation of crevasses and can form the basis for modelling ice shelf calving processes.
We developed a statistics-based method to identify zones of Antarctic ice shelves that are...