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

Heller, Valentin; Chen, Fan; Br�hl, Markus; Gabl, Roman; Chen, Xuexue; Wolters, Guido; Fuchs, Helge


Fan Chen

Markus Br�hl

Roman Gabl

Xuexue Chen

Guido Wolters

Helge Fuchs


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.


Heller, V., Chen, F., Brühl, M., Gabl, R., Chen, X., Wolters, G., & Fuchs, H. (2019). Large-scale experiments into the tsunamigenic potential of different iceberg calving mechanisms. Scientific Reports, 9(1), Article 861.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 25, 2018
Online Publication Date Jan 29, 2019
Publication Date Jan 29, 2019
Deposit Date Jan 30, 2019
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2019
Journal Scientific Reports
Print ISSN 2045-2322
Electronic ISSN 2045-2322
Publisher Nature Publishing Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 9
Issue 1
Article Number 861
Keywords Multidisciplinary
Public URL
Publisher URL


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