Date of Award


Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Terence Hughes

Second Committee Member

James Fastook

Third Committee Member

Roger Hooke


Calving of ice is a relatively new area of research in the still young field of glaciology. In the short time that calving has been studied, it has been mainly treated as an afterthought, with the predominant mode of thinking being that it will happen so to concern oneself with why is not important. Many studies dealt with observations of calving front positions over time vs. ice velocity in an attempt to quantify the calving rate as the difference between the two, while others have attempted to deduce some empirical relationship between calving rate and variables such as water depth or temperature. This study instead addresses the question of why, where, and when ice will first become crevassed, which is an obviously necessary condition for a later calving event to occur. Previous work examining the causes of calving used ideas put forth from a variety of fields, including civil engineering, materials science, and results from basic physics and mechanics. These theories are re-examined here and presented as part of a larger whole. Important results from the field of fracture mechanics are utilized frequently, and these results can be used as a predictor of ice behavior and intrinsic properties of ice, as well as properties like back stresses induced by local pinning points and resistive shears along glacial ice boundaries. A theory of fracture for a material experiencing creep is also presented with applications to ice shelves and crevasse penetration. Finally, a speculative theory regarding large scale iceberg formation is presented. It is meant mainly as an impetus to further discussion on the topic, with the hope that a model relating crevasse geometries to flow parameters can result in crevasse spacings that could produce the tabular icebergs which are so newsworthy. The primary focus of this thesis is to move away from the "after the fact" studies that are so common in calving research, and instead devote energy to determining what creates the conditions that drive the calving of ice in the first place.