Flexural Control of Basal Crevasse Opening Under Ice Shelves

W. Roger Buck, Ching Yao Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Classical analyses of basal crevasse opening do not account for the free surface of a floating ice layer. We describe a high-resolution numerical treatment of the opening of a single crevasse in a finite thickness elastic layer floating on an inviscid substrate. For low extensional stress (less than about half of the expected maximum for a freely floating shelf) the resulting crevasse height and width match previous studies. For larger magnitude applied extensional stresses, the new results predict basal crevasse widths an order of magnitude greater than the classical solution. An analysis using the thin-layer approximation shows that the greatly increased predicted width of basal crevasse opening results from layer bending. Given that the height and width of basal crevasses are non-linear functions of the stress experienced by an ice shelf, the new model results may enable better estimation of buttressing stresses for different parts of ice shelves.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2021GL093110
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 28 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


  • crevasse
  • elasticity
  • flexure
  • ice shelves
  • tensile failure


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