A new study, of which I am a co-author, examines globally-collected observations of iceberg calving and novel model results to present a new framework for understanding this important mass loss process.
Our study explains why calving rates vary so greatly over time, and how small changes in the environment can lead to tremendous changes in calving activity. We show for the first time that calving belongs to a class of processes termed “self-organized critical.” These processes occur in the same manner over many orders of magnitude such that there is no single, characteristic event size. The calving terminus self-organizes to the point where it is always at the cusp of collapse. This property makes iceberg calving very challenging to predict. However, in our manuscript, we demonstrate one potential solution for addressing this challenge and including self-organized critical calving in ice flow models.
Our paper will be published in a forthcoming issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.