Calving Icebergs

The frontline of an iceberg calves away

The birth of icebergs from a glacier is known as calving. Although it’s extremely common for chunks of ice to break off a glacier’s terminus, the process is not well understood. In large calving events like the one shown above, the breakaway is preceded by the formation of a crack or crevasse in the main body of the glacier. How quickly that crack grows depends on many factors, including the presence (and temperature) of water in the crack, the topology of the underlying rock, and friction between the glacier and ground beneath. Once the crack is large enough that the glacier can’t support the weight of the ice at the terminus, the ice will break off, generating new icebergs and, potentially, large waves. (Image credit: T. James et al., source)

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