The dynamics of grounded tidewater glaciers is investigated with a time-dependent numerical flow model, which solves the full equations for the stress and velocity fields and includes a water-pressure-dependent sliding law. The calving criterion implemented in the model shifts the calving front at each time-step to the position where the frontal ice thickness exceeds flotation height by a prescribed value. With this model, the linear relation between calving rate and water depth proposed on empirical grounds is qualitatively reproduced for the situation of a slowly retreating or advancing terminus, but not for situations of rapid changes. Length changes of tidewater glaciers, i.e.especially rapid changes, are dominantly controlled by the bed topography and are to a minor degree a direct reaction to a mass-balance change. Thus, accurate information on the near-terminus bed topography is required for reliable prediction of the terminus changes due to climate changes. The results also confirm the suggested cycles of slow advance and rapid retreat through a basal depression. Rapid changes in terminus positions preferably occur in places where the bed slopes upwards in the ice-flow direction.