Glacial calving brought about by the warming of the atmosphere and/or oceans is becoming all too common. But, can earthquakes cause such events?
Researchers have found that glacial calving can be caused by earthquakes quite far away from the area in which calving takes place. It is not the earthquake as such that causes the problem, but it is the tsunamis induced by the earthquakes that can shake the ice sheets that abut the ocean, inducing fractures and ruptures.
Researchers analyzed 42 Antartic seismographs and found a dozen sets of signals from "icequakes" triggered precisely at the moment that surface waves were passing by.
As global warming weakens ice sheets, questions arise regarding what other mechanisms might damage such ice sheets and induce calving. Although the earthquakes identified by the researchers were modest at best and not a threat as such, their induction of icequakes, and the resulting calving, may pose a threat as ice sheets are further induced to disintegrate.
The study can be found at http://www.nature.com/ngeo/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/ngeo2212.html.