Articles | Volume 6, issue 5
The Cryosphere, 6, 973–984, 2012
The Cryosphere, 6, 973–984, 2012

Research article 12 Sep 2012

Research article | 12 Sep 2012

Evaluation of the criticality of cracks in ice shelves using finite element simulations

C. Plate1, R. Müller1, A. Humbert2, and D. Gross3 C. Plate et al.
  • 1Institute of Applied Mechanics, TU Kaiserslautern, Germany
  • 2Division of Geosciences/Glaciology, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany
  • 3Division of Solid Mechanics, TU Darmstadt, Germany

Abstract. The ongoing disintegration of large ice shelf parts in Antarctica raise the need for a better understanding of the physical processes that trigger critical crack growth in ice shelves. Finite elements in combination with configurational forces facilitate the analysis of single surface fractures in ice under various boundary conditions and material parameters. The principles of linear elastic fracture mechanics are applied to show the strong influence of different depth dependent functions for the density and the Young's modulus on the stress intensity factor KI at the crack tip. Ice, for this purpose, is treated as an elastically compressible solid and the consequences of this choice in comparison to the predominant incompressible approaches are discussed. The computed stress intensity factors KI for dry and water filled cracks are compared to critical values KIc from measurements that can be found in literature.