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Glacial Geology 7.

Shear Stress and Strain

7. SHEAR STRESS AND STRAIN

37 Points

Objective: to learn about factors affecting stress and strain in glaciers.

You should be able to:


• Calculate glacial shear stress and strain rates;
• Explain how shear stress, glacier thickness and surface slope are related; and,
• Describe how shear stress and strain relate to glacier flow velocity.

Read:
• Bennett & Glasser (2009) Chapter 3 pp. 47-51

Constants & Equations:


τ = ρ×g×h×sinθ (7.1)
where τ shear stress in glaciers
ρ = density of ice = 900 kg/m3 1 N = 1 kg m/s/s
g = acceleration of gravity (9.81 m/s/s) 1 Pa = 1 N/m2
h = thickness (height) of the glacier (m) 1 kPa = 1000 Pa
θ = surface slope 1 bar = 100 kPa
ℎ = �(22 × 𝑠𝑠) (7.2)
where: h = glacier height (thickness) (m)
s = distance from the terminus (m)
ε = A × τn (7.3)
where: ε = the strain rate
A = a constant which decreases as temperature decreases
τ = the shear stress
N = a constant ≈ 3

1. According to Bennett & Glasser (2009), why do glaciers flow? [1]

2. What is the definition of shear stress (in words)? [1]

3. What are the two determinants of basal shear stress? [1]

K.A. Lemke – UWSP 43


7. Shear Stress and Strain Glacial Geology

4. What is the minimum amount of shear stress required for ice to deform? [1]

What is the maximum amount of shear stress ice can withstand?

5. Use equation 7.1 to determine the shear stress in kPa (kilo Pascals) at different depths within a glacier with a surface slope
of 0.5° (θ = 0.50°). Take your calculated values to two decimal places. Show your work. [3]

a. 50 m FIGURE 7.1 Hypothetical Glacier

b. 500 m

c. 1000 m

6. Based on your calculations in question (5), what is the relationship between shear stress and glacier thickness? [1]

7. Studies of the physics of ice show that basal shear stress for all glaciers averages approximately 100 kPa or 100,000 Pa.
Scientists use this value to reconstruct the surface slope of former ice sheets at different thicknesses. Determine the slope
(to two decimal places) for glaciers with the thicknesses listed below. Use τcr =100 kPa and solve for sin θ. Then use the
sin-1 key on your calculator to determine the actual angle of the surface slope.
a. Glacier thickness = 670 m [1]

b. Glacier thickness = 3750 m. [1]

8. Based on your calculations in question (7), what is the relationship between surface slope and glacier thickness? [1]

44 K.A. Lemke – UWSP


Glacial Geology 7. Shear Stress and Strain

9. Box 3.2 on pages 48-49 in Bennett & Glasser (2009) states that we can estimate the height (thickness) of a glacier based
on the distance from the terminus using equation 7.2. Use equation (7.2) to determine glacier thickness at the following
distances from the terminus. Then use equation (7.1) with a critical shear stress of τcr =100 kPa to determine the glacier surface
slope at each distance from the terminus. Take all answers to two decimal places. [8]

s (m) h (m) θ Work

50

500

5000

10. Why do you think you got an error in question (9) when trying to calculate the slope 5 m from the terminus? [2]

11. Based on your calculations in question (9), what is the relationship between glacier thickness and surface slope? [1]

12. The relationship between glacier thickness and surface slope results in glaciers having a parabolic longitudinal profile.
Sketch what a longitudinal parabolic profile looks like. [1]

K.A. Lemke – UWSP 45


7. Shear Stress and Strain Glacial Geology

13. Glen’s Flow law says that the strain rate (“flow velocity”) is a function of temperature and shear stress as shown in equation
7.3. If we assume that the temperature is relatively constant throughout our glacier, we can omit A from equation 7.3, in
which case the strain rate equals the shear stress cubed. Calculate the strain rate for the depths listed below using the shear
stress values you calculated in question (5). [7]

What is the strain rate at 50 m?

What is the strain rate at 1000 m?

How many times greater is the strain rate at 1000 m than at 50 m?

If shear stress at 50 m is doubled (2×τ50 m), what is the new strain rate?

How many times greater is this than the original strain rate at 50 m?

If shear stress at 50 m is tripled (3×τ50 m), what is the new strain rate?

How many times greater is this than the original strain rate at 50 m?

14. Based solely on your calculated strain rates in question (12), at what depth should flow velocity be greatest? Why? [2]

15. In actuality, flow velocity is greatest at the glacier surface and least at the glacier bed. Why? [2]

16. If two glaciers have the same surface slope, would the shear stress at 500 m in both glaciers be equal? Why or why not? [2]

17. If two glaciers have the same surface slope, would the strain rate at 500 m in both glaciers be equal? Why or why not? [2]

46 K.A. Lemke – UWSP