Journal Highlights

Tiny ocean waves could make large ice shelves crumble

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Small ocean waves could play a bigger role in breaking up ice shelves than tsunamis or other large waves, a new study suggests.

A new study examining vibrations in Antarctica’s Ross Ice Shelf finds small waves continuously impacting the ice shelf may create enough strain to extend existing cracks in the ice and potentially create new ones. An ocean wave of 1 centimeter (0.5 inches) in height can cause vibrations that repeatedly move the ice more than 20 centimeters (8 inches), according to the new study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The distance the ice moves is small, but because small ocean waves continually bombard the ice shelf, they could have a long-term effect on its stability, said Peter Bromirski, an oceanographer at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego and lead author of the new study…more