Crevassing, Thrusting and Folding in Alpine Glaciers: Quantitative Field Analysis and Mechanical Modelling

: funded by the FGGA (University of Vienna)

Principal Investigators:
Martin Schöpfer (University of Vienna)
Bernhard Grasemann (University of Vienna)

University Assistant (Prae-Doc):
Franziska Mayrhofer (University of Vienna)

Glacier ice is practically speaking a monomineralic, metamorphic rock analogue which, in temperate glaciers, deforms at the pressure melting point. The gravity-driven flow of glacier ice leads to structures, which are well-known from metamorphic rocks such as folds and shear zones.
Near the surface, however, glacier ice is brittle and exhibits opening-mode fractures, called crevasses in Glaciology.
The aim of this project is to bridge the gap between Structural Geology and Glaciology and to gain insights into the geometry and mechanical genesis of common glacier structures by means of detailed field studies on Austria’s largest glacier and state-of-the-art computer simulations.
The formation of crevasses and the displacement rates of thrust faults will be monitored using time-lapse photography and geotechnical tools, respectively.
The anticipated outcome of the project is a better understanding of the geometry and mechanics of fractures and flow-related structures in glaciers. 


The Pasterze glacier, exhibiting penetrative foliation, with Johannisberg (3453 m) in the background (© B. Grasemann).