A Study of Discrete Glacier Motion

Open Access
Zoet, Lucas Keith
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 07, 2012
Committee Members:
  • Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Dissertation Advisor
  • Richard B Alley, Committee Member
  • Chris Marone, Committee Member
  • Charles James Ammon, Committee Member
  • Derek Elsworth, Committee Member
  • Glaciology
  • glacial erosion
  • glacial sliding
  • unstable sliding
  • seismology
Knowledge of process which control glacial dynamics are imperative in quantifying the response of a glacier or ice sheet to external forcing. This dissertation focuses mainly upon the characterization of sliding ice over a bed in an unstable fashion. I investigate unstable sliding through instances where it is observed in passive seismology as well as a focused laboratory study. The laboratory study attempts to isolate specific aspects of the sliding interface, which could lead to unstable sliding. Implications of unstable sliding with regards to erosion are also dealt with. Initially the TAMSEIS array is used to observe a unique set of seismicity originating at the base of David Glacier Antarctica in which ~20,000 events were located over a ~300 day period as the ice slid over an asperity. Tidal effects at the terminus modulated the interevent spacing and magnitude of events allowing for a basic analysis of healing process between a glacier and its bed. The 300 day period of repeat seismicity is hypothesized to arise from advection of debris rich ice over the asperity. Next the erosion implications of stick slip sliding are investigated. Sudden advancement associated with seismic energy generation is hypothesized to rapidly expand water filled cavities, which form in lee of bedrock highs. The rapid expansion creates a drop in water pressure within the cavity resulting in a pressure gradient leading to rapid fracture of bedrock. During the interseismic period of a stick slipping glacier the static coefficient of friction transfers a larger shear stress to the bed than the dynamic coefficient of friction from stably sliding glacier would. Next laboratory experimentation is conducted using a biaxial shearing apparatus in order to test the hypothesis that debris rich ice can affect the stability regime of a sliding glacier. This is preformed on a suite of ice-debris samples with range entrained debris percentages and temperatures. Both synthetic ice constructed in the laboratory and natural ice taken from the base of Engabreen Glacier were tested. Transition from a velocity strengthening to velocity weakening interface was observed for a constant velocity if the debris amount was increased thus validating the initial hypothesis. These exterminations were followed by a set of experiments in which the biax was de-stiffened in order to replicate the elastic strain, which would be accumulated at the base of a glacier. When driven under conditions previously identified in the unstable slip regime unstable sliding did occur. This allowed for exploration unstable slip parameters. Specifically comparisons of stress drop with recurrence interval, and peak-sliding velocity was investigated. Next POLENET seismic data was used to investigate a set of repeating ruptures occurring near the Executive Committee Range of Marie Byrd Land Antarctica, a known source of volcanic activity. Surface velocities as low as V < 30 m/yr in this region exist indicating the source of glacially generated seismicity was atypical. A proposed source of a sudden addition of basal melt water from an increase in geothermal heat flux is hypothesized to result in the seismic signature observed. Lastly the POLENET dataset was used to investigate calving events located at the terminus of Thwaites Glacier. The seismicity displayed a monochromatic signal. A new calving mechanism, which could produce such a source of seismicity, is theorized as resonating within the block, which is being calved off.