MechE Colloquium: Bringing tidewater glaciers into the lab: icebergs, earthquakes, and the world's largest granular material


Event details

Date 23.04.2024
Hour 12:0013:00
Speaker Prof Justin Burton, Emory
Location Online
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English


Tidewater glaciers are the gatekeepers between arctic ice sheets and the ocean. In Greenland, these glaciers are formed from ice that is squeezed into narrow channels called fjords, where the flow rate can reach 50 m/day and cubic-kilometer scale icebergs can fracture and discharge into the ocean. Field campaigns and satellite imagery have revealed the dynamics of tidewater glaciers on timescales from hours to years, but measurements are complicated by the inherent dangers of instrumenting remote, ice-choked fjords. Our lab has investigated several important processes occurring in tidewater glaciers, from glacial earthquakes generated by capsizing icebergs to the jamming behavior of ice mélange (a floating granular material spanning 50 square kilometers). Our experiments use plastic ice analogs in a meter-scale water tank which is fully instrumented with cameras, force sensors, and pressure sensors. In this talk I will review some of our findings and discuss recent results showing that quasi-statically advancing ice mélange produces stochastic forcing and dynamics that cannot be captured with continuum models. 


Justin Burton obtained his B.S. degree in Physics from the University of Cincinnati in 2001 and his Ph.D. degree in Physics from the University of California, Irvine in 2006. After postdoctoral positions at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Chicago, he joined the Department of Physics at Emory University in 2013, where he is now an Associate Professor of Physics. His interdisciplinary research program is primarily experimental and covers a wide variety of topics focused on complex and nonequilibrium systems. Current projects include interfacial and nanoscale fluid dynamics, machine learning of many-body dynamics in dusty plasmas, and "soft earth geophysics." He is currently a Gordon and Betty Moore Experimental Physics Investigator and is a past recipient of the National Science Foundation's CAREER Award. He also leads a number of K-12 STEM outreach and education activities in the Atlanta area.

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free



MechE Colloquium Spring 2024