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Journal of Glaciology


The brittle failure of saline columnar ice was investigated under biaxial compression at and −10° and −40°C over the range 0 ≤ R A < 1 where R A is the ratio of the intermediate to major principal compressive stress. The major principal stress and the intermediate (confining) stress were orthogonal to the columnar axes (type-A confinement); both stresses and the c-axes of the grains were co-planar. The results confirm earlier work by Hausier (1981) and Timco and Frederking (1983, 1986) on saline ice and follow similar behavior to fresh-water columnar ice found by Smith and Schulson (1993) and Frederking (1977). Failure stress and failure mode are sensitive to the confinement and two regimes of behavior are found: the failure stress first rapidly increases with R A in the range 0 ≤ R A < R T and then tends to decrease for R A > R t. The transition stress ratio, R t changes from ≈0.2 at −10°C to ≈0.1 at −40°C. The failure mode changes from axial splitting to shear faulting in the loading plane for 0 < R A < R t. Above R t failure changes to a combined mode of splitting across the columns and shear faulting out of the loading plane. The failure-stress envelope is of a truncated Coulomb-type. Damage studies show wing cracks and local fragmentation of grains involving the brine pockets. The results are explained in terms of Coulombic sliding and Hertzian crack mechanics.