Finger rafting: A generic instability of floating elastic sheets

  • Vella D
  • Wettlaufer J
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Colliding ice floes are often observed to form a series of interlocking fingers. We show that this striking phenomenon is not a result of some peculiar property of ice but rather a general and robust mechanical phenomenon reproducible in the laboratory with other floating materials. We determine the theoretical relationship between the width of the resulting fingers and the material's mechanical properties and present experimental results along with field observations to support the theory. The generality of this "finger rafting" suggests that analogous processes may be responsible for creating the large-scale structures observed at the boundaries between Earth's convergent tectonic plates.

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  • Dominic Vella

  • J. S. Wettlaufer

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