Glacial Earthquakes and Precursory Seismicity Associated With Thwaites Glacier Calving

J. Paul Winberry, Audrey D. Huerta, Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Richard C. Aster, Andrew A. Nyblade, Douglas A. Wiens

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11 Scopus citations


We observe two (~MS 3) long-period (10–30 s) seismic events that originate from the terminus of Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica. Serendipitous acquisition of satellite images confirm that the seismic events were glacial earthquakes generated during the capsizing of icebergs. The glacial earthquakes were preceded by 6 days of discrete high-frequency seismic events that can be observed at distances exceeding 250 km. The high-frequency seismicity displays an increasing rate of occurrence, culminating in several hours of sustained tremor coeval with the long-period events. A series of satellite images collected during this precursory time period show that the high-frequency events and tremor are the result of accelerating growth of ancillary fractures prior to the culminating calving event. This study indicates that seismic data have the potential to elucidate the processes by which Thwaites Glacier discharges into the ocean, thus improving our ability to constrain future sea level rise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere2019GL086178
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 16 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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