Drag forces at the ice-sheet bed and resistance of hard-rock obstacles: the physics of glacial ripping

Krabbendam, Maarten; Dioguardi, Fabio; Arnhardt, Christian; Roberson, Sam; Hall, Adrian M.. 2023 Drag forces at the ice-sheet bed and resistance of hard-rock obstacles: the physics of glacial ripping. Journal of Glaciology, 69 (273). 103-119.

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Glacial ripping involves glaciotectonic disintegration of rock hills and extensive removal of rock at the ice-sheet bed, triggered by hydraulic jacking caused by fluctuating water pressures. Evidence from eastern Sweden shows that glacial ripping caused significant subglacial erosion during the final deglaciation of the Fennoscandian ice sheet, distinct from abrasion and plucking (quarrying). Here we analyse the ice drag forces exerted onto rock obstacles at the base of an ice sheet, and the resisting forces of such rock obstacles: glaciotectonic disintegration requires that ice drag forces exceed the resisting forces of the rock obstacle. We consider rock obstacles of different sizes, shapes and fracture patterns, informed by natural examples from eastern Sweden. Our analysis shows that limited overpressure events, unfavourable fracture patterns, low-transmissivity fractures, slow ice and streamlined rock hamper rock hill disintegration. Conversely, under fast ice flow and fluctuating water pressures, disintegration is possible if the rock hill contains subhorizontal, transmissive fractures. Rock steps on previously smooth, abraded surfaces, caused by hydraulic jacking, also enhance drag forces and can cause disintegration of a rock hill. Glacial ripping is a physically plausible erosion mechanism, under realistic glaciological conditions prevalent near ice margins.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 0022-1430
Date made live: 05 Aug 2022 13:21 +0 (UTC)

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