Glacial earthquakes are a new class of seismic events, first discovered as signals in long-period seismograms recorded on the Global Seismographic Network. Most of these events occur along the coasts of Greenland, where they are spatially related to large outlet glaciers. Glacial earthquakes show a strong seasonality, with most events occurring during the late summer. The rate of glacial-earthquake occurrence increased between 2000 and 2005, with a stabilization of earthquake frequency at 2003–2004 levels in 2006–2008. Recent observations establish a strong temporal correlation between the distinct seismic signals of glacial earthquakes and large ice-loss events in which icebergs of cubic-kilometer scale collapse against the calving face, linking the seismogenic process to the force exerted by these icebergs on the glacier and the underlying solid earth. A sudden change in glacier speed results from these glacial-earthquake calving events. Seasonal and interannual variations in glacier-terminus position account for general characteristics of the temporal variation in earthquake occurrence. Glacial earthquakes in Antarctica are less well studied, but they exhibit several characteristics similar to glacial earthquakes in Greenland.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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