Analysis of low-frequency seismic signals generated during a multiple-iceberg calving event at Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland



[1] We investigated seismic signals generated during a large-scale, multiple iceberg calving event that occurred at Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland, on 21 August 2009. The event was recorded by a high-rate time-lapse camera and five broadband seismic stations located within a few hundred kilometers of the terminus. During the event two full-glacier-thickness icebergs calved from the grounded (or nearly grounded) terminus and immediately capsized; the second iceberg to calve was two to three times smaller than the first. The individual calving and capsize events were well-correlated with the radiation of low-frequency seismic signals (<0.1 Hz) dominated by Love and Rayleigh waves. In agreement with regional records from previously published ‘glacial earthquakes’, these low-frequency seismic signals had maximum power and/or signal-to-noise ratios in the 0.05–0.1 Hz band. Similarly, full waveform inversions indicate that these signals were also generated by horizontal single forces acting at the glacier terminus. The signals therefore appear to be local manifestations of glacial earthquakes, although the magnitudes of the signals (twice-time integrated force histories) were considerably smaller than previously reported glacial earthquakes. We thus speculate that such earthquakes may be a common, if not pervasive, feature of all full-glacier-thickness calving events from grounded termini. Finally, a key result from our study is that waveform inversions performed on low-frequency, calving-generated seismic signals may have only limited ability to quantitatively estimate mass losses from calving. In particular, the choice of source time function has little impact on the inversion but dramatically changes the earthquake magnitude. Accordingly, in our analysis, it is unclear whether the smaller or larger of the two calving icebergs generated a larger seismic signal.