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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-128
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-128
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 12 Jun 2019

Research article | 12 Jun 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

Poor performance of a common crevasse model at marine-terminating glaciers

Ellyn M. Enderlin1 and Timothy C. Bartholomaus2 Ellyn M. Enderlin and Timothy C. Bartholomaus
  • 1Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, 83725, USA
  • 2Department of Geological Sciences, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho, 83844, USA

Abstract. Crevasses are both affected by and effect stresses and surface mass balance of glaciers, potentially exerting important controls on meltwater routing, glacier viscosity, and iceberg calving, yet there are few direct observations of crevasse depth. Here we assess one of the most common models for crevasse formation, in which crevasse depths depend on the local stress state, through analysis of 52644 crevasse depth observations from 19 Greenland glaciers. We find that modeled depths are uncorrelated with observed depths and are generally too deep. Model performance can be improved with glacier-by-glacier tuning of viscosity and water depth parameters, but spatial variations in tuning parameters are unlikely to have a physical basis, and the model still fails to capture smaller-scale variations in crevassing that may control calving. Thus, numerical ice flow models drawing on this parameterization are likely to yield inaccurate projections of glacier mass change or crevasse depth-driven terminus position changes.

Ellyn M. Enderlin and Timothy C. Bartholomaus
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Ellyn M. Enderlin and Timothy C. Bartholomaus
Ellyn M. Enderlin and Timothy C. Bartholomaus
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Latest update: 24 Jun 2019
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Short summary
Accurate predictions of future changes in glacier flow require the realistic simulation of glacier terminus position change in numerical models. We use crevasse observations for 19 Greenland glaciers to test a widely-used model that prescribes terminus position from crevasse depths. The model generally over-predicts crevasse depths and cannot reproduce spatial patterns. These results suggest we may be over-emphasizing the role of surface crevasses as the primary control on terminus position.
Accurate predictions of future changes in glacier flow require the realistic simulation of...
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