Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

The "footloose" mechanism: Iceberg decay from hydrostatic stresses

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle



T.J.W. Wagner, P. Wadhams, C. Richard Bates, P. Elosegui, A. Stern, D. Vella, E.P. Abrahamsen, A. Crawford, K.W. Nicholls, C. Richard Bates

School/Research organisations


We study a mechanism of iceberg breakup that may act together with the recognized melt and wave-induced decay processes. Our proposal is based on observations from a recent field experiment on a large ice island in Baffin Bay, East Canada. We observed that successive collapses of the overburden from above an unsupported wavecut at the iceberg waterline created a submerged foot fringing the berg. The buoyancy stresses induced by such a foot may be sufficient to cause moderate-sized bergs to break off from the main berg. A mathematical model is developed to test the feasibility of this mechanism. The results suggest that once the foot reaches a critical length, the induced stresses are sufficient to cause calving. The theoretically predicted maximum stable foot length compares well to the data collected in situ. Further, the model provides analytical expressions for the previously observed "rampart-moat" iceberg surface profiles.


Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2014

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. 150,000-year palaeoclimate record from northern Ethiopia supports early, multiple dispersals of modern humans from Africa

    Lamb, H., Bates, C. R., Bryant, C., Davies, S., Huws, D., Marshall, M. & Roberts, H. 18 Jan 2018 In : Scientific Reports. 8, 7 p., 1077

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. The Changing Landscape of Prehistoric Orkney

    Wickham Jones, C., Bates, C. R., Bates, M. & Dawson, S. Sep 2017 The Ecology of Early Settlement in Northern Europe - Conditions for Subsistence and Survival (Volume 1) - Per Persson. Vol. 1

    Research output: ResearchChapter

  3. Northern North Sea and Atlantic Northwest Approaches

    Dawson, S., Bates, C. R., Wickham Jones, C. & Dawson, A. Jun 2017 Submerged Landscapes of the European Continentalo Shelf, Wuaternary Paleoenvironments. Flemming, N. (ed.). Wiley-Blackwell, p. 187-210

    Research output: ResearchChapter

  4. The Quaternary evolution of the Lower Medway: new evidence from beneath the flood plain

    bates, M., Bates, C. R. & Briant, R. 2017 Between the Thames and the Medway: Archaeological excavations on teh Hoo Peninsula and its environs. Dawkes, G. (ed.). spoilheap Publications, p. 9-64

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewChapter (peer-reviewed)

Related by journal

  1. Low-δ18O rhyolites from the Malani Igneous Suite: a positive test for South China and NW India linkage in Rodinia

    Wang, W., Cawood, P. A., Zhou, M-F., Pandit, M. K., Xia, X-P. & Zhao, J-H. 30 Oct 2017 In : Geophysical Research Letters. Early View

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Exact Vlasov-Maxwell equilibria for asymmetric current sheets

    Allanson, O., Wilson, F., Neukirch, T., Liu, Y-H. & Hodgson, J. D. B. 16 Sep 2017 In : Geophysical Research Letters. 44, 17, p. 8685-8695 11 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewLetter

  3. Antarctic pack-ice algal distribution: floe-scale spatial variability and predictability from physical parameters

    Meiners, K. M., Arndt, S., Bestley, S., Krumpen, T., Ricker, R., Milnes, M., Newbery, K., Freier, U., Jarman, S., King, R., Proud, R., Kawaguchi, S. & Meyer, B. 29 Jul 2017 In : Geophysical Research Letters. Early View

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. Global warming and ocean stratification: a potential result of large extraterrestrial impacts

    Joshi, M., von Glasow, R., Smith, R. S., Paxton, C. G. M., Maycock, A. C., Lunt, D. J., Loptson, C. & Markwick, P. 28 Apr 2017 In : Geophysical Research Letters. 44, 8, p. 3841-3848

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  5. Vertical structure of tropospheric winds on gas giants

    Scott, R. K. & Dunkerton, T. J. 16 Apr 2017 In : Geophysical Research Letters. 44, 7, p. 3073-3081 9 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

ID: 146703665