08 Jun 2023
 | 08 Jun 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Evaluation of four calving laws for Antarctic ice shelves

Joel Alexander Wilner, Mathieu Morlighem, and Gong Cheng

Abstract. Many floating ice shelves in Antarctica buttress the ice streams feeding them, thereby reducing the discharge of icebergs into the ocean. The rate at which ice shelves calve icebergs and how fast they flow determines whether they advance, retreat, or remain stable, exerting a first-order control on ice discharge. To parameterize calving within ice sheet models, several empirical and physical calving “laws” have been proposed in the past few decades. Such laws emphasize dissimilar features, including along- and across-flow strain rates (the eigencalving law), a fracture yield criterion (the von Mises law), longitudinal stretching (the crevasse depth law), and a simple ice thickness threshold (the minimum thickness law), among others. Despite the multitude of established calving laws, these laws remain largely unvalidated for the Antarctic Ice Sheet, rendering it difficult to assess the broad applicability of any given law in Antarctica. We address this shortcoming through a set of numerical experiments that evaluate existing calving laws for ten ice shelves around the Antarctic Ice Sheet. We utilize the Ice-sheet and Sea-level System Model (ISSM) and implement four calving laws under constant external forcing, calibrating the free parameter of each of these calving laws by assuming that the current position of the ice front is in steady state and finding the set of parameters that best achieves this position over a simulation of 200 years. We find that, in general, the eigencalving and von Mises laws best reproduce observed calving front positions under the steady state position assumption. These results will streamline future modeling efforts of Antarctic ice shelves by better informing the relevant physics of Antarctic-style calving on a shelf-by-shelf basis.

Joel Alexander Wilner et al.

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Joel Alexander Wilner et al.

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Evaluation of four calving laws for Antarctic ice shelves Joel A. Wilner, Mathieu Morlighem, Gong Cheng

Joel Alexander Wilner et al.


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Short summary
We use numerical modeling to study iceberg calving off of ice shelves in Antarctica. We examine four widely used mathematical descriptions of calving ("calving laws"), under the assumption that Antarctic ice shelf front positions should be in steady state under the current climate forcing. We quantify how well each of these calving laws replicates the observed front positions. Our results suggest that the eigencalving and von Mises laws are most suitable for Antarctic ice shelves.