Abstract

We have determined seismic source mechanisms for shallow and intermediate-depth icequake clusters recorded on the glacier Gornergletscher, Switzerland, during the summers of 2004 and 2006. The selected seismic events are part of a large data set of over 80,000 seismic events acquired with a dense seismic network deployed in order to study the yearly rapid drainage of Gornersee lake, a nearby ice-marginal lake. Using simple frequency and distance scaling and Green’s functions for a homogeneous half-space, we calculated moment tensor solutions for icequakes with Mw-1.5 using a full-waveform inversion method usually applied to moderate seismic events (Mw>4) recorded at local to regional distances (≈50–700 km). Inversions from typical shallow events are shown to represent tensile crack openings. This explains well the dominating Rayleigh waves and compressive first motions observed at all recording seismograms. As these characteristics can be observed in most icequake signals, we believe that the vast majority of icequakes recorded in the 2 yr is due to tensile faulting, most likely caused by surface crevasse openings. We also identified a shallow cluster with somewhat atypical waveforms in that they show less dominant Rayleigh waves and quadrantal radiation patterns of first motions. Their moment tensors are dominated by a large double-couple component, which is strong evidence for shear faulting. Although less than a dozen such icequakes have been identified, this is a substantial result as it shows that shear faulting in glacier ice is generally possible even in the absence of extreme flow changes such as during glacier surges. A third source of icequakes was located at 100 m depth. These sources can be represented by tensile crack openings. Because of the high-hydrostatic pressure within the ice at these depths, these events are most likely related to the presence of water lenses that reduce the effective stress to allow for tensile faulting.

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