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An Empirical Approach for Estimating Stress-Coupling Lengths for Marine-Terminating Glaciers

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Full Publication: https://dx.doi.org/10.3389/feart.2016.00104

Product Type: Journal Article

Year: 2016

Authors: Enderlin, E. M., G. S. Hamilton, S. R. O'Neel, T. C. Bartholomaus, M. Morlighem, and J. W. Holt


Suggested Citation:
Enderlin, E. M., G. S. Hamilton, S. R. O'Neel, T. C. Bartholomaus, M. Morlighem, and J. W. Holt. 2016. An Empirical Approach for Estimating Stress-Coupling Lengths for Marine-Terminating Glaciers. Frontiers in Earth Science - Cryospheric Sciences 4(104). doi:10.3389/feart.2016.00104

Abstract


Despite an increase in the abundance and resolution of observations, variability in the dynamic behavior of marine-terminating glaciers remains poorly understood. When paired with ice thicknesses, surface velocities can be used to quantify the dynamic redistribution of stresses in response to environmental perturbations through computation of the glacier force balance. However, because the force balance is not purely local, force balance calculations must be performed at the spatial scale over which stresses are transferred within glacier ice, or the stress-coupling length (SCL). Here we present a new empirical method to estimate the SCL for marine-terminating glaciers using high-resolution observations. We use the empirically-determined periodicity in resistive stress oscillations as a proxy for the SCL. Application of our empirical method to two well- studied tidewater glaciers (Helheim Glacier, SE Greenland, and Columbia Glacier, Alaska, USA) demonstrates that SCL estimates obtained using this approach are consistent with theory (i.e., can be parameterized as a function of the ice thickness) and with prior, independent SCL estimates. In order to accurately resolve stress variations, we suggest that similar empirical stress-coupling parameterizations be employed in future analyses of glacier dynamics.

Keywords: marine-terminating glaciers, force balance, stress-coupling, Columbia Glacier, Helheim Glacier, glacier dynamics

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