Calving on tidewater glaciers amplified by submarine frontal melting
- 1Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
- 2Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA
Abstract. While it has been shown repeatedly that ocean conditions exhibit an important control on the behaviour of grounded tidewater glaciers, modelling studies have focused largely on the effects of basal and surface melting. Here, a finite-element model of stresses near the front of a tidewater glacier is used to investigate the effects of frontal melting on calving, independently of the calving criterion used. Applications of the stress model to idealized scenarios reveal that undercutting of the ice front due to frontal melting can drive calving at up to ten times the mean melt rate. Factors which cause increased frontal melt-driven calving include a strong thermal gradient in the ice, and a concentration of frontal melt at the base of the glacier. These properties are typical of both Arctic and Antarctic tidewater glaciers. The finding that frontal melt near the base is a strong driver of calving leads to the conclusion that water temperatures near the bed of the glacier are critically important to the glacier front, and thus the flow of the glacier. These conclusions are robust against changes in the basal boundary condition and the choice of calving criterion, as well as variations in the glacier size or level of crevassing.