Spatial and temporal variations in Greenland glacial-earthquake activity, 1993–2010



[1] Glacial earthquakes are anomalous earthquakes associated with large ice-loss events occurring at marine-terminating glaciers, primarily in Greenland. They are detectable teleseismically, and a proper understanding of the source mechanism may provide a remote-sensing tool to complement glaciological observations of these large outlet glaciers. We model teleseismic surface-wave waveforms to obtain locations and centroid–single-force source parameters for 121 glacial earthquakes occurring in Greenland during the period 2006–2010. We combine these results with those obtained by previous workers to analyze spatial and temporal trends in glacial-earthquake occurrence over the 18-year period from 1993–2010. We also examine earthquake occurrence at six individual glaciers, comparing the earthquake record to independently obtained observations of glacier change. Our findings confirm the inference that glacial-earthquake seismogenesis occurs through the capsize of large, newly calved icebergs. We find a close correspondence between episodes of glacier retreat, thinning, and acceleration and the timing of glacial earthquakes, and document the northward progression of glacial earthquakes on Greenland's west coast over the 18-year observing period. Our results also show that glacial earthquakes occur when the termini of the source glaciers are very close to the glacier grounding line, i.e., when the glaciers are grounded or nearly grounded.