Theses Doctoral

Glacial Earthquakes and Glacier Seismicity in Greenland

Veitch, Stephen Alexander

The loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet is an important contributor to current and future sea level rise occurring due to ongoing changes in the global climate. A significant portion of this ice mass loss comes through the calving of large icebergs at Greenland’s many marine-terminating outlet glaciers. However, the dynamics of calving at these glaciers is currently not well understood, complicating projections of future behaviour of these glaciers and mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet. The use of seismological tools has shown promise as a means of both monitoring and better understanding the dynamics of the calving process at these glaciers. On the global scale, data from the long-standing global seismic network has recorded the occurrence of glacial earthquakes, large long period earthquakes that occur during large calving events at near-grounded outlet glaciers. The occurrence and source parameters of these earthquakes provide insight into the link between glacier calving and climatic and oceanic forcings, as well as information on the large-scale glacier-dynamic conditions under which these major calving events occur. On the more local scale, a deployment of seismometers around an individual glacier has provided insights on the seismic environment of a calving glacier, as well as the more immediate, short-term external drivers of calving events. We consider both local and global seismic data in order to further understanding of the dynamics of the calving process at Greenland outlet glaciers, and find that glacial earthquake production is indicative of a near-grounded terminus at the source glacier. We find that the locations derived from these events are accurate and are sensitive to changes in the calving-front position of the source glacier, and that the active-force azimuths are representative of the orientation of the glacier at the time of calving. We also find that these glaciers are the source of abundant small icequakes, which are strongly tied to the occurrence of major calving events. The small icequakes that occur at Helheim glacier are modulated by semi-diurnal variations in tide height, and potentially control the timing of major calving events by progressively damaging the glacier tongue.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Earth and Environmental Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Nettles, Meredith K.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2016