Failure strength of glacier ice inferred from Greenland crevasses

Aslak Grinsted, Nicholas Mossor Rathmann, Ruth Mottram, Anne Munck Solgaard, Joachim Mathiesen, Christine Schøtt Hvidberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Ice fractures when subject to stress that exceeds the material failure strength. Previous studies have found that a von Mises failure criterion, which places a bound on the second invariant of the deviatoric stress tensor, is consistent with empirical data. Other studies have suggested that a scaling effect exists, such that larger sample specimens have a substantially lower failure strength, implying that estimating material strength from laboratory-scale experiments may be insufficient for glacier-scale modeling. In this paper, we analyze the stress conditions in crevasse onset regions to better understand the failure criterion and strength relevant for large-scale modeling. The local deviatoric stress is inferred using surface velocities and reanalysis temperatures, and crevasse onset regions are extracted from a remotely sensed crevasse density map. We project the stress state onto the failure plane spanned by Haigh-Westergaard coordinates, showing how failure depends on mode of stress. We find that existing crevasse data are consistent with a Schmidt-Ishlinsky failure criterion that places a bound on the absolute value of the maximal principal deviatoric stress, estimated to be 158±44ĝ€¯kPa. Although the traditional von Mises failure criterion also provides an adequate fit to the data with a von Mises strength of 265±73ĝ€¯kPa, it depends only on stress magnitude and is indifferent to the specific stress state, unlike Schmidt-Ishlinsky failure which has a larger shear failure strength compared to tensile strength. Implications for large-scale ice flow and fracture modeling are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1947-1957
Number of pages11
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Apr 2024

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


Dive into the research topics of 'Failure strength of glacier ice inferred from Greenland crevasses'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this