Buoyant forces promote tidewater glacier iceberg calving through large basal stress concentrations
Iceberg calving parameterisations currently implemented in ice sheet models do not reproduce the full observed range of calving behaviours. For example, though buoyant forces at the ice front are known to trigger full-depth calving events on major Greenland outlet glaciers, a multi-stage iceberg calving event at Jakobshavn Isbræ is unexplained by existing models. To explain this and similar events, we propose a notch-triggered rotation mechanism, whereby a relatively small subaerial calving event triggers a larger full-depth calving event due to the abrupt increase in buoyant load and the associated stresses generated at the ice–bed interface. We investigate the notch-triggered rotation mechanism by applying a geometric perturbation to the subaerial section of the calving front in a diagnostic flow-line model of an idealised glacier snout, using the full-Stokes, finite element method code Elmer/Ice. Different sliding laws and water pressure boundary conditions are applied at the ice–bed interface. Water pressure has a big influence on the likelihood of calving, and stress concentrations large enough to open crevasses were generated in basal ice. Significantly, the location of stress concentrations produced calving events of approximately the size observed, providing support for future application of the notch-triggered rotation mechanism in ice-sheet models.