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Sci Rep. 2019 Jan 29;9(1):861. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-36634-3.

Large-scale experiments into the tsunamigenic potential of different iceberg calving mechanisms.

Author information

1
Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Geoprocesses Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK. Valentin.heller@nottingham.ac.uk.
2
Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Geoprocesses Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
3
Leichtweiß-Institute for Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources (LWI), Department of Hydromechanics and Coastal Engineering, Technische Universität Braunschweig, Beethovenstraße 51a, 38106, Braunschweig, Germany.
4
School of Engineering, Institute for Energy Systems, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH9 3DW, UK.
5
Unit of Hydraulic Engineering, University of Innsbruck, Technikerstrasse 13, 6020, Innsbruck, Austria.
6
Department of Hydraulic Engineering, Delft University of Technology, Stevinweg 1, 2628 CN, Delft, The Netherlands.
7
Royal HaskoningDHV, George Hintzenweg 85, 3009 AM, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
8
Deltares, Coastal Structures and Waves, Boussinesqweg 1, 2629 HV, Delft, The Netherlands.
9
Laboratory of Hydraulics, Hydrology and Glaciology (VAW), ETH Zurich, 8093, Zurich, Switzerland.

Abstract

Mass balance analysis of ice sheets is a key component to understand the effects of global warming. A significant component of ice sheet and shelf mass balance is iceberg calving, which can generate large tsunamis endangering human beings and coastal infrastructure. Such iceberg-tsunamis have reached amplitudes of 50 m and destroyed harbours. Calving icebergs interact with the surrounding water through different mechanisms and we investigate five; A: capsizing, B: gravity-dominated fall, C: buoyancy-dominated fall, D: gravity-dominated overturning and E: buoyancy-dominated overturning. Gravity-dominated icebergs essentially fall into the water body whereas buoyancy-dominated icebergs rise to the water surface. We find with unique large-scale laboratory experiments that iceberg-tsunami heights from gravity-dominated mechanisms (B and D) are roughly an order of magnitude larger than from A, C and E. A theoretical model for released iceberg energy supports this finding and the measured wave periods upscaled to Greenlandic outlet glaciers agree with field observations. Whilst existing empirical equations for landslide-tsunamis establish estimates of an upper envelope of the maximum iceberg-tsunami heights, they fail to capture the physics of most iceberg-tsunami mechanisms.

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