Tabular iceberg calving and ice shelf retreat occurs after full‐thickness fractures, known as rifts, propagate across an ice shelf. A quickly evolving rift signals a threat to the stability of Larsen C, the Antarctic Peninsula's largest ice shelf. Here we reveal the influence of ice shelf heterogeneity on the growth of this rift, with implications that challenge existing notions of ice shelf stability. Most of the rift extension has occurred in bursts after overcoming the resistance of suture zones that bind together neighboring glacier inflows. We model the stresses in the ice shelf to determine potential rift trajectories. Calving perturbations to ice flow will likely reach the grounding line. The stability of Larsen C may hinge on a single suture zone that stabilizes numerous upstream rifts. Elevated fracture toughness of suture zones may be the most important property that allows ice shelves to modulate Antarctica's contribution to sea level rise.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Fracture propagation and stability of ice shelves governed by ice shelf heterogeneity|
|Series title||Geophysical Research Letters|
|Publisher||American Geophysical Union|
|Contributing office(s)||Alaska Science Center, Alaska Science Center Water|
|Other Geospatial||Larsen C Ice Shelf|
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