Crevasse Propagation on Brittle Ice: Application to Cycloids on Europa

Mattia Poinelli*, Eric Larour, Julie Castillo-Rogez, Bert Vermeersen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
91 Downloads (Pure)


Existing lineaments on the surface of the Jovian moon Europa are thought to be the result of ongoing brittle crack formation in the elastic regime. Arcuate features are called cycloids and can be modeled using linear elastic fracture mechanics. Here, we build on existing terrestrial models of rift propagation and extend them to cycloids on the moon. We propose that these cracks tend to grow as a series of nearly instantaneous events, spaced by periods of inactivity. The behavior is similar to what is observed on Antarctic ice shelves, where rifts can remain dormant for years. We argue that dormant periods between growth events could explain the presence of cycloids on Europa even without invoking secular motion of the crust. Furthermore, being able to model propagation events and their timing should help future missions exploring the moon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11756-11763
Number of pages8
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 2019


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