Simulating the processes controlling ice-shelf rift paths using damage mechanics

Alex Huth, Ravindra Duddu, Benjamin Smith, Olga Sergienko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Rifts are full-thickness fractures that propagate laterally across an ice shelf. They cause ice-shelf weakening and calving of tabular icebergs, and control the initial size of calved icebergs. Here, we present a joint inverse and forward computational modeling framework to capture rifting by combining the vertically integrated momentum balance and anisotropic continuum damage mechanics formulations. We incorporate rift-flank boundary processes to investigate how the rift path is influenced by the pressure on rift-flank walls from seawater, contact between flanks, and ice mélange that may also transmit stress between flanks. To illustrate the viability of the framework, we simulate the final 2 years of rift propagation associated with the calving of tabular iceberg A68 in 2017. We find that the rift path can change with varying ice mélange conditions and the extent of contact between rift flanks. Combinations of parameters associated with slower rift widening rates yield simulated rift paths that best match observations. Our modeling framework lays the foundation for robust simulation of rifting and tabular calving processes, which can enable future studies on ice-sheet-climate interactions, and the effects of ice-shelf buttressing on land ice flow.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Glaciology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Antarctic glaciology
  • glacier modeling
  • glaciological model experiments
  • ice shelves
  • iceberg calving


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