EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modelling the source of glacial earthquakes: numerical modelling of the response of a tide-water glacier to the capsize of an instable iceberg

Anne Mangeney1, Pauline Bonnet2, Vladislav Yastrebov3, Olivier Castelnau4, Alban Leroyer5, Patrick Queutey5, Martin Rueckamp6, and Amandine Sergeant7
Anne Mangeney et al.
  • 1Université de Paris, Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris, Paris, France (
  • 2Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (DLR), Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany
  • 3MINES ParisTech, PSL University, Centre des Matériaux, CNRS UMR 7633, Evry, France
  • 4Laboratoire Procédés et Ingénierie en Mécanique et Matériaux, CNRS, ENSAM, CNAM, Paris, France
  • 5Laboratoire LHEEA, METHRIC Team, UMR CNRS n°6598, Centrale Nantes, France
  • 6Geodesy and Glaciology, Bavarian Academy of Science and Humanities (BAdW), Munich, Germany
  • 7Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, Centrale Marseille, LMA, France

One current concern in Climate Sciences is the estimation of the annual amount of ice lost by glaciers and the corresponding rate of sea level rise. Greenland ice sheet contribution is significant with about 30% to the global ice mass losses. The processes that control ablation at tidewater glacier termini, glacier retreat and calving are complex, setting the limits to the estimation of dynamic mass loss and the relation to glacier dynamics. It involves interactions between bedrock – glacier – icebergs – ice-mélange – water – atmosphere. Moreover, the capsize of cubic kilometer scale icebergs close to a glacier front can destabilize the glacier, generate tsunami waves, and induce mixing of the water column which can impact both the local fauna and flora.


We aim to improve the physical understanding of the response of glacier front to the force of a capsizing iceberg against the terminus. For this, we use a mechanical model of iceberg capsize against the mobile glacier interacting with the solid earth through a frictional contact and we constrain it with measured surface displacements and seismic waves that are recorded at teleseismic distances. Our strategy is to construct a solid dynamics model, using a finite element solver, involving a deformable glacier, basal contact and friction, and simplified iceberg-water interactions. We simulate the response of a visco-elastic near-grounded glacier to the capsize of an iceberg close to the terminus. The influence of the glacier geometry, the type of capsize, the ice properties and the basal friction on the glacier dynamic and the observed surface displacements are assessed. The surface displacements simulated with our model are then compared with measured displacements for well documented events. We show the surface and basal displacements of the glacier are significantly different in the case of to a top-out and a bottom-out (the two possible rotations) iceberg capsize.  This suggests different basal forces in both types of capsize, and thus probably a different signature in the seismic waves generated at the basal surface during capsize. To reproduce the vertical displacements of the glacier, our results suggest a higher hydrodynamic force on the glacier tongue than suggested in previous studies.

How to cite: Mangeney, A., Bonnet, P., Yastrebov, V., Castelnau, O., Leroyer, A., Queutey, P., Rueckamp, M., and Sergeant, A.: Modelling the source of glacial earthquakes: numerical modelling of the response of a tide-water glacier to the capsize of an instable iceberg, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14118,, 2023.