Iceberg calving as a primary source of regional-scale glacier-generated seismicity in the St. Elias Mountains, Alaska

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Abstract

[1] Since the installation of the Alaska Regional Seismic Network in the 1970s, data analysts have noted nontectonic seismic events thought to be related to glacier dynamics. While loose associations with the glaciers of the St. Elias Mountains have been made, no detailed study of the source locations has been undertaken. We performed a two-step investigation surrounding these events, beginning with manual locations that guided an automated detection and event sifting routine. Results from the manual investigation highlight characteristics of the seismic waveforms including single-peaked (narrowband) spectra, emergent onsets, lack of distinct phase arrivals, and a predominant cluster of locations near the calving termini of several neighboring tidewater glaciers. Through these locations, comparison with previous work, analyses of waveform characteristics, frequency-magnitude statistics and temporal patterns in seismicity, we suggest calving as a source for the seismicity. Statistical properties and time series analysis of the event catalog suggest a scale-invariant process that has no single or simple forcing. These results support the idea that calving is often a response to short-lived or localized stress perturbations. Our results demonstrate the utility of passive seismic instrumentation to monitor relative changes in the rate and magnitude of iceberg calving at tidewater glaciers that may be volatile or susceptible to ensuing rapid retreat, especially when existing seismic infrastructure can be used.

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