Underwater acoustic signatures of glacier calving

Oskar Glowacki, Grant Deane, Mateusz Moskalik, Philippe Blondel, Jaroslaw Tegowski, Małgorzata Błaszczyk

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Climate-driven ice-water interactions in the contact zone between marine-terminating glaciers and the ocean surface show a dynamic and complex nature. Tidewater glaciers lose volume through the poorly-understood process of calving. A detailed description of the mechanisms controlling the course of calving is essential for the reliable estimation and prediction of mass loss from glaciers. Here we present the potential of hydroacoustic methods to investigate different modes of ice detachments. High-frequency underwater ambient noise recordings are combined with synchronized, high-resolution, time-lapse photography of the Hans Glacier cliff in Hornsund Fjord, Spitsbergen to identify three types of calving events: typical subaerial, sliding subaerial and submarine. A quantitative analysis of the data reveals a robust correlation between ice impact energy and acoustic emission at frequencies below 200 Hz for subaerial calving. We suggest that relatively inexpensive acoustic methods can be successfully used to provide quantitative descriptions of the various calving types.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)804-812
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jan 2015
Publication statusPublished - 16 Mar 2015


  • acoustics
  • underwater noise
  • glacier
  • fjord
  • climate change
  • subsea technology


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