Iceberg-capsize tsunamigenesis

Douglas R. Macayeal, Dorian S. Abbot, Olga V. Sergienko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Calving from the floating termini of outlet glaciers and ice shelves is just the beginning of an interesting chain of events that can subsequently have important impacts on human life and property. Immediately after calving, many icebergs capsize (roll over by 90°) due to the instability of their initial geometry. As icebergs melt and respond to the cumulative effects of ocean swell, they can also reorient their mass distribution by further capsize and fragmentation. These processes release gravitational potential energy and can produce impulsive large-amplitude surface-gravity waves known as tsunamis (a term derived from the Japanese language). Iceberg-capsize tsunamis in Greenland fjords can be of sufficient amplitude to threaten human life and cause destruction of property in settlements. Iceberg-capsize tsunamis may also have a role in determining why some ice shelves along the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrate 'explosively' in response to general environmental warming. To quantify iceberg tsunami hazards we investigate iceberg-capsize energetics, and develop a rule relating tsunami height to iceberg thickness. This rule suggests that the open-water tsunami height (located far from the iceberg and from shorelines where the height can be amplified) has an upper limit of 0.01H where H is the initial vertical dimension of the iceberg.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-56
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number58
StatePublished - Aug 2011

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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