Ice formation within rock is known to be an important driver of near-surface frost weathering as well as of rock damage at the depth of several meters, which may play a crucial role for the slow preconditioning of rock fall in steep permafrost areas. This letter reports results from an experiment where acoustic emission monitoring was used to investigate rock damage in a high-alpine rock-wall induced by natural thermal cycling and freezing/thawing. The analysis of the large catalog of events obtained shows (i) robust power-law distributions in the time and energy domains, a footprint of rock micro-fracturing activity induced by stresses arising from thermal variations and associated freezing/thawing of rock; (ii) an increase in AE activity under sub-zero rock-temperatures, suggesting the importance of freezing-induced stresses. AE activity further increases in locations of the rock-wall that are prone to receiving melt water. These results suggest that the framework of further modeling studies (theoretical and numerical) should include damage, elastic interaction and poro-mechanics in order to describe freezing-related stresses.

Acoustic emission, Frost-cracking, Mechanical weathering, Scaling properties
Earth and Planetary Science Letters
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Amitrano, D. (D.), Gruber, S, & Girard, L. (L.). (2012). Evidence of frost-cracking inferred from acoustic emissions in a high-alpine rock-wall. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 341-344, 86–93. doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2012.06.014