Modelling the advance-retreat cycle of a tidewater glacier with simple sediment dynamics

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We present a simple coupled glacier-sediment model to simulate the evolution of a tidewater glacier. The model is based on a consideration of the total mass budget of a glacier, whereas ice mechanics are fully parameterized. The calving rate at the glacier terminus is assumed to be proportional to the water depth. We show that the formation of a morainic shoal has a profound influence on the response of a tidewater glacier to climatic forcing. For a slow periodic forcing of the equilibrium-line altitude, the model glacier advances steadily into the estuary, builds up a submarine terminal moraine, and then retreats rapidly when a critical point is hit. For a slowly increasing equilibrium-line altitude, at a rate as low as 1 m per 5 years, we find terminus retreat rates of up to 10 km in 50 years. Our model suggests that, although the response of tidewater glaciers to external forcing is strongly nonlinear, the onset of retreat is controlled by climate change
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-111
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal and Planetary Change
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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