The Physics of Glaciers

The Physics of Glaciers

4th Edition - July 7, 2006

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  • Authors: Kurt Cuffey, W. S. B. Paterson
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123694614
  • eBook ISBN: 9780080919126

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The Physics of Glaciers, Fourth Edition, discusses the physical principles that underlie the behavior and characteristics of glaciers. The term glacier refers to all bodies of ice created by the accumulation of snowfall, e.g., mountain glaciers, ice caps, continental ice sheets, and ice shelves. Glaciology—the study of all forms of ice—is an interdisciplinary field encompassing physics, geology, atmospheric science, mathematics, and others. This book covers various aspects of glacier studies, including the transformation of snow to ice, grain-scale structures and ice deformation, mass exchange processes, glacial hydrology, glacier flow, and the impact of climate change. The present edition features two new chapters: “Ice Sheets and the Earth System” and “Ice, Sea Level, and Contemporary Climate Change.” The chapter on ice core studies has been updated from the previous version with new material. The materials on the flow of mountain glaciers, ice sheets, ice streams, and ice shelves have been combined into a single chapter entitled “The Flow of Ice Masses.”

Key Features

  • Completely updated and revised, with 30% new material including climate change
  • Accessible to students, and an essential guide for researchers
  • Authored by preeminent glaciologists


Graduate students and academic and professional researchers in the fields of glaciology, climatology, geophysics and geology.

Table of Contents

  • Preface to Fourth Edition

    Preface to First Edition

    Chapter 1 Introduction

    1.1 Introduction

    1.2 History and Perspective

    1.3 Organization of the Book

    Further Reading

    Chapter 2 Transformation of Snow to Ice

    2.1 Introduction

    2.2 Snow, Firn, and Ice

    2.2.1 Density of Ice

    2.3 Zones in a Glacier

    2.3.1 Distribution of Zones

    2.4 Variation of Density with Depth in Firn

    2.5 Snow to Ice Transformation in a Dry-snow Zone

    2.5.1 Processes

    2.5.2 Models of Density Profiles in Dry Firn

    2.5.3 Reduction of Gas Mobility

    2.6 Hoar Layers

    2.7 Transformation When Meltwater Is Present

    Further Reading

    Chapter 3 Grain-Scale Structures and Deformation of Ice

    3.1 Introduction

    3.2 Properties of a Single Ice Crystal

    3.2.1 Structure

    3.2.2 Deformation of a Single Crystal

    3.3 Polycrystalline Ice: Grain-scale Forms and Processes

    3.3.1 Orientation Fabrics: Brief Description

    3.3.2 Impurities and Bubbles

    3.3.3 Texture and Recrystallization

    3.3.4 Formation of C-axis Orientation Fabrics

    3.3.5 Mechanisms of Polycrystalline Deformation

    3.4 Bulk Creep Properties of Polycrystalline Ice

    3.4.1 Strain Rate and Incompressibility

    3.4.2 Deviatoric Stress

    3.4.3 Bench-top Experiments: The Three Phases of Creep

    3.4.4 Isotropic Creep Behavior

    3.4.5 Controls on Creep Parameter A

    3.4.6 Recommended Isotropic Creep Relation and Values for A

    3.4.7 Anisotropic Creep of Ice

    3.5 Elastic Deformation of Polycrystalline Ice

    Appendix 3.1

    Appendix 3.2: Data for Figure 3.16

    Chapter 4 Mass Balance Processes: 1. Overview and Regimes

    4.1 Introduction

    4.1.1 Notes on Terminology

    4.2 Surface Mass Balance

    4.2.1 Surface Accumulation Processes

    4.2.2 Surface Ablation Processes

    4.2.3 Annual (Net) Balance and the Seasonal Cycle

    4.2.4 Annual Glacier Balance and Average Specific Balances

    4.2.5 Variation of Surface Balance with Altitude

    4.2.6 Generalized Relation of Surface Balance to Temperature and Precipitation

    4.2.7 Relation of Glacier-wide Balance to the Area-Altitude Distribution

    4.3 Mass Balance Variations of Mountain Glaciers

    4.3.1 Interannual Fluctuations of Balance

    4.3.2 Cumulative Balance and Delayed Adjustments

    4.3.3 Regional Variations of Mass Balance

    4.4 Englacial Mass Balance

    4.4.1 Internal Accumulation

    4.4.2 Internal Ablation

    4.5 Basal Mass Balance

    4.5.1 Basal Accumulation

    4.5.2 Basal Ablation

    4.6 Mass Loss by Calving

    4.6.1 The Calving Spectrum

    4.6.2 Calving from Tidewater Glaciers

    4.6.3 Calving from Ice Shelves

    4.6.4 Calving Relations for Ice Sheet Models

    4.7 Methods for Determining Glacier Mass Balance

    4.8 Mass Balance Regimes of the Ice Sheets

    4.8.1 Greenland Ice Sheet

    4.8.2 Antarctic Ice Sheet

    Further Reading

    Chapter 5 Mass Balance Processes: 2. Surface Ablation and Energy Budget

    5.1 Introduction

    5.1.1 Radiation

    5.1.2 Energy Budget of Earth’s Atmosphere and Surface

    5.2 Statement of the Surface Energy Budget

    5.2.1 Driving and Responding Factors in the Energy Budget

    5.2.2 Melt and Warming Driven by Net Energy Flux

    5.3 Components of the Net Energy Flux

    5.3.1 Downward Shortwave Radiation

    5.3.2 Reflected Shortwave Radiation

    5.3.3 Longwave Radiation

    5.3.4 Field Example, Net Radiation Budget

    5.3.5 Subsurface Conduction and Radiation

    5.3.6 Turbulent Fluxes

    5.4 Relation of Ablation to Climate

    5.4.1 Calculating Melt from Energy Budget Measurements

    5.4.2 Simple Approaches to Modelling Melt

    5.4.3 Increase of Ablation with Warming

    5.4.4 Importance of the Frequency of Different Weather Conditions

    v5.4.5 Energy Budget Regimes

    Further Reading

    Chapter 6 Glacial Hydrology

    6.1 Introduction

    6.1.1 Permeability of Glacier Ice

    6.1.2 Effective Pressure

    6.2 Features of the Hydrologic System

    6.2.1 Surface (Supraglacial) Hydrology

    6.2.2 Englacial Hydrology

    6.2.3 Subglacial Hydrology

    6.2.4 Runoff from Glaciers

    6.3 The Water System within Temperate Glaciers

    6.3.1 Direction of Flow

    6.3.2 Drainage in Conduits

    6.3.3 Drainage in Linked Cavities

    6.3.4 Subglacial Drainage on a Soft Bed

    6.3.5 Summary of Water Systems at the Glacier Bed

    6.3.6 System Behavior

    6.4 Glacial Hydrological Phenomena

    6.4.1 Jökulhlaups

    6.4.2 Antarctic Subglacial Lakes

    Further Reading

    Chapter 7 Basal Slip

    7.1 Introduction

    7.1.1 Measurements of Basal Velocity

    7.1.2 Local vs. Global Control of Basal Velocity

    7.2 Hard Beds

    7.2.1 Weertman’s Theory of Sliding

    7.2.2 Observations at the Glacier Sole

    7.2.3 Improvements to Weertman’s Analysis

    7.2.4 Discussion of Assumptions

    7.2.5 Comparison of Predictions with Observations

    7.2.6 How Water Changes Sliding Velocity on Hard Beds

    7.2.7 Sliding of Debris-laden Ice

    7.2.8 Sliding at Sub-Freezing Temperatures

    7.2.9 Hard-bed Sliding: Summary and Outlook

    7.3 Deformable Beds

    7.3.1 Key Observations

    7.3.2 Till Properties and Processes

    7.3.3 Constitutive Behaviors

    7.3.4 Slip Rate ub on a Deformable Bed

    7.3.5 Large-scale Behavior of Soft Beds

    7.3.6 Continuity of Till

    7.3.7 Additional Geological Information

    7.4 Practical Relations for Basal Slip and Drag

    Further Reading

    Chapter 8 The Flow of Ice Masses

    8.1 Introduction

    8.1.1 Ice Flux

    8.1.2 Balance Velocities

    8.1.3 Actual Velocities

    8.1.4 How Surface Velocities Are Measured

    8.2 Driving and Resisting Stresses

    8.2.1 Driving Stress and Basal Shear Stress

    8.2.2 Additional Resisting Forces and the Force Balance

    8.2.3 Factors Controlling Resistance and Flow

    8.2.4 Effective Driving Force of a Vertical Cliff

    8.3 Vertical Profiles of Flow

    8.3.1 Parallel Flow

    8.3.2 Observed Complications in Shear Profiles

    8.4 Fundamental Properties of Extending and Compressing Flows

    8.4.1 General Concepts

    8.4.2 Uniform Extension or Compression

    8.5 General Governing Relations

    8.5.1 Local Stress-equilibrium Relations

    8.5.2 General Solutions for Stress and Velocity

    8.5.3 Vertically Integrated Force Balance

    8.5.4 General Mass Conservation Relation (Equation of Continuity)

    8.5.5 Vertically Integrated Continuity Equations

    8.6 Effects of Valley Walls and Shear Margins

    8.6.1 Transverse Velocity Profile Where Basal Resistance Is Small

    8.6.2 Combined Effects of Side and Basal Resistances

    8.7 Variations Along a Flow Line

    8.7.1 Factors Controlling Longitudinal Strain Rate

    8.7.2 Local-scale Variation: Longitudinal Stress-gradient Coupling

    8.7.3 Large-Scale Variation

    8.8 Flow at Tidewater Margins

    8.8.1 Theory

    8.8.2 Observations: Columbia Glacier

    8.9 Ice Sheets: Flow Components

    8.9.1 Flow at a Divide

    8.9.2 Ice Streams

    8.9.3 Ice Shelves

    8.9.4 Transition Zone Between Grounded and Floating Ice

    8.9.5 Flow Over Subglacial Lakes

    8.10 Surface Profiles of Ice Sheets

    8.10.1 Profile Equations

    8.10.2 Other Factors Influencing Profiles

    8.10.3 Relation Between Ice Area and Volume

    8.10.4 Travel Times

    8.10.5 Local-scale Relation of Surface and Bed Topography

    Further Reading

    Chapter 9 Temperatures in Ice Masses

    9.1 Introduction

    9.2 Thermal Parameters of Ice and Snow

    9.3 Temperature of Surface Layers

    9.4 Temperate Glaciers

    9.4.1 Ice Temperature

    9.4.2 Origin and Effect of Water

    9.4.3 Distribution of Temperate Glaciers

    9.5 Steady-state Temperature Distributions

    9.5.1 Steady-state Vertical Temperature Profile

    9.6 Measured Temperature Profiles

    9.7 General Equation of Heat Transfer

    9.7.1 Derivation of Equation

    9.7.2 Boundary and Basal Conditions

    9.8 Temperatures Along a Flow Line

    9.8.1 Observations

    9.9 Time-varying Temperatures

    9.10 Temperatures in Ice Shelves

    Chapter 10 Large-Scale Structures

    10.1 Introduction

    10.2 Sedimentary Layers

    10.3 Foliation

    10.3.1 Elongate Bubble Forms

    10.3.2 Finite Strain

    10.4 Folds

    10.4.1 Folding in Central Regions of Ice Sheets

    10.5 Boudinage

    10.6 Faults

    10.7 Implications for Ice Core Stratigraphy

    10.8 Ogives and Longitudinal Corrugations

    10.9 Crevasses

    10.9.1 Patterns and Conditions for Occurrence

    10.9.2 Crevasse Depth and Propagation

    10.9.3 Related Tensional Features

    10.10 Structural Assemblages

    Further Reading

    Chapter 11 Reaction of Glaciers to Environmental Changes

    11.1 Introduction

    11.2 Reaction to Changes of Mass Balance: Scales

    11.2.1 Net Change of Glacier Length

    11.2.2 Simple Models for Response

    11.2.3 Simple Models for Different Zones

    11.3 Reaction to Changes of Mass Balance: Dynamics

    11.3.1 Theoretical Framework

    11.3.2 Ice Thickness Changes

    11.3.3 Relative Importance of Diffusion and Kinematic Waves

    11.3.4 Numerical Models of Glacier Variation

    11.4 Reactions to Additional Forcings

    11.4.1 Response of Glaciers to Ice and Bed Changes

    11.4.2 Factors Influencing the Reaction of an Ice Sheet to the End of an Ice Age

    11.4.3 Ice Flow Increased by Water Input

    11.5 Changes at a Marine Margin

    11.5.1 Conceptual Framework

    11.5.2 The Tidewater Glacier Cycle

    11.5.3 Interactions of Ice Shelves and Inland Ice

    11.5.4 Forcing by Sea-level Rise

    Further Reading

    Chapter 12 Glacier Surges

    12.1 Introduction

    12.2 Characteristics of Surging Glaciers

    12.2.1 Spatial Distribution and Relation to Geological Setting

    12.2.2 Distribution in Time

    12.2.3 Temperature Characteristics

    12.2.4 Characteristics of Form and Velocity

    12.3 Detailed Observations of Surges

    12.3.1 Surges of Temperate Glaciers

    12.3.2 The Role of Water: Variegated Glacier

    12.3.3 Surges Where the Bed Is Partly Frozen

    12.3.4 Surges of Polythermal Tidewater Glaciers

    12.4 Surge Mechanisms

    12.4.1 General Evidence Relevant to the Mechanism

    12.4.2 The Mechanism for Temperate Glaciers

    12.4.3 Polythermal Glaciers

    12.5 Surging of Ice Sheets?

    12.6 Ice Avalanches

    Chapter 13 Ice Sheets and the Earth System

    13.1 Introduction

    13.2 Interaction of Ice Sheets with the Earth System

    13.2.1 Processes Driving Ice Sheet Change

    13.2.2 Feedback Processes

    13.3 Growth and Decay of Quaternary Ice Sheets

    13.3.1 Relation to Milankovitch Forcings

    13.3.2 Climate Forcings at the LGM

    13.3.3 Onset of Quaternary Cycles

    13.3.4 Heinrich Events

    13.4 Ice Sheet Evolution Models

    13.4.1 Model Components

    13.4.2 Model Calibration

    13.4.3 Simulations of Quaternary Ice Sheets

    Further Reading

    Chapter 14 Ice, Sea Level, and Contemporary Climate Change

    14.1 Introduction

    14.1.1 Equivalent Sea Level

    14.1.2 Recent Climate and Sea-level Change

    14.2 Global Warming and Mountain Glaciers

    14.2.1 History of Glacier Lengths

    14.2.2 Worldwide Mass Balance of Mountain Glaciers and Small Ice Caps

    14.2.3 Sea-level Forecasts: Mountain Glaciers and Small Ice Caps

    14.3 The Ice Sheets and Global Warming

    14.3.1 Greenland

    14.3.2 Antarctica

    14.3.3 Model Forecasts of Ice Sheet Contributions to Sea-level Change

    14.3.4 Simple Approaches to Forecasts for the Century Ahead

    14.4 Summary

    14.4.1 Recent Sea-level Rise

    14.4.2 The Twentieth Century

    14.4.3 This Century

    Chapter 15 Ice Core Studies

    15.1 Introduction

    15.1.1 Some Essential Terms and Concepts

    15.1.2 Delta Notation

    15.2 Relation Between Depth and Age

    15.2.1 Theoretical Relations

    15.2.2 Determination of Ages

    15.2.3 Difference of Gas and Ice Ages

    15.3 Fractionation of Gases in Polar Firn

    15.4 Total Air Content

    15.5 Stable Isotopes of Ice

    15.5.1 Conceptual Model

    15.5.2 Interpretation of Records

    15.6 Additional Techniques of Temperature Reconstruction

    15.6.1 Borehole Temperatures

    15.6.2 Melt Layers

    15.6.3 Thermal and Gravitational Fractionation of Gases

    15.7 Estimation of Past Accumulation Rates

    15.8 Greenhouse Gas Records

    15.8.1 Histories of Atmospheric Concentration

    15.8.2 Isotopic Compositions of Greenhouse Gases

    15.9 Gas Indicators of Global Parameters

    15.9.1 Global Mean Ocean Temperature

    15.9.2 Global Biological Productivity

    15.10 Particulate and Soluble Impurities

    15.10.1 Electrical Conductivity Measurement (ECM)

    15.10.2 Primary Aerosols

    15.10.3 Secondary Aerosols

    15.11 Examples of Multiparameter Records from Ice Sheets

    15.11.1 Deglacial Climate Change

    15.11.2 A Long Record of Climate Cycling

    15.12 Low-latitude Ice Cores

    15.13 Surface Exposures in Ablation Zones

    Further Reading

    Appendix: A Primer on Stress and Strain


Product details

  • No. of pages: 704
  • Language: English
  • Copyright: © Academic Press 2010
  • Published: July 7, 2006
  • Imprint: Academic Press
  • Hardcover ISBN: 9780123694614
  • eBook ISBN: 9780080919126

About the Authors

Kurt Cuffey

Affiliations and Expertise

Dept of Earth & Planetary Science/Dept of Geography, University of California, Berkeley, USA

W. S. B. Paterson

Affiliations and Expertise

Emeritus, University of Copenhagen, Australian Antarctic Division, and Canadian Polar Continental Shelf Project

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