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Terminus dynamics at an advancing glacier: Taku Glacier, Alaska

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matt King


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Taku Glacier, Alaska, USA, is currently in the advance stage of the tidewater glacier cycle. We investigated the near-terminus dynamics by measuring surface velocities, surface elevation changes, ice thickness and ablation. Velocities vary on sub-daily, diurnal, seasonal and interannual timescales. Flowline modeling shows that the modeled surface velocities are sensitive to changes in till yield strength and thus effective basal pressures. The glacier bed deepens in the up-glacier direction and this imposes a minimum subglacial water pressure necessary for water to drain along the bed. In a simple model we impose water-pressure gradients based on phreatic surfaces of constant slopes to simulate the winter-summer transitions. This proves sufficient to explain an observed early-season switch from compressional to block flow. Velocities also vary between years. Changing basal conditions can result in lower horizontal velocities, which decrease the ice supply to the terminus and result in temporary surface lowering. But a decrease in ice flux to the terminus must lead to ice storage further upstream, and that ice mass will eventually reach the terminus. This can explain the observed episodic nature of terminus advance.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Truffer M, Motyka RJ, Hekkers M, Howat IM, King MA

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Glaciology

Year: 2009

Volume: 55

Issue: 194

Pages: 1052-1060

Print publication date: 01/12/2009

ISSN (print): 0022-1430

ISSN (electronic): 1727-5652

Publisher: International Glaciological Society


DOI: 10.3189/002214309790794887


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Funder referenceFunder name
NSF OPP-0221307US National Science Foundation
NSF OPP-0414128US National Science Foundation