Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Annual Black Rapids trip

This was a quick three-day trip to Black Rapids to get all instruments ready for the summer. Just as last year, it was quite windy on the glacier and the slopes were so wind-loaded that I didn't dare going there to put up the cameras that we use to watch lake drainages.
The snow pack was quite unusual: Near the glacier terminus, there was no snow. It had all melted in an extreme warm event this winter. But the upper glacier had a record snow pack. This came right after the most ice loss there in 40 years of measurements.

Camp in the Lokket tributary

Nice view of Hayes from the Richardson Highway

The night we cam back there was a lunar eclipse. Here it is just starting (over the Tanana River)

Almost at full eclipse

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Taku Glacier

We just started a new project on the Taku Glacier. The goal is to take a closer look at glacier erosion. This glacier is amazing. In previous work we have found that it can excavate as much as 3 m of sediment per year. That is, the glacier is primarily growing at the bottom, by digging itself into soft sediments. Over the next three years we will take a detailed look at how this works. Last week we used radar and seismics to map the glacier bed. With a detailed seismic survey we hope to also find the depth of the sediments under the ice. Next year we will drill through the glacier to find out how it moves over its substrate.

Here are some pictures from this year's field work:

The Juneau Icefield

View from the camp site: Split Thumb

The tent camp

Alessio working on the seismic line on a windy day

The camp with the ocean in the background. If Taku kept advancing, it would eventually cut off the Taku River and create a huge lake. This has happened in the historic past, but the warming climate is unlikely to sustain the current advance for much longer.

The first days were quite windy with lots of blowing snow

The first wiggles show the return of seismic waves from the glacier bed

Orion on a clear night

At the moment, Taku Glacier is still advancing

Roman inspects the sediment bulges in front of the advancing ice

A tree is no match for advancing ice

Ice advancing over sediment

And the yellow bird that's taking us home again.

Flight to Juneau

I flew to Juneau for some field work on Taku Glacier last week. We experienced one of these days were all of Alaska had beautiful weather. On such a day, this must be one of the most amazing commercial jet flights there are. From Fairbanks to Anchorage we got a very close look of Denali, but the windows were too dirty for good pictures. Below are a few that I took on the way to Juneau from Anchorage.

College Fjord with Harvard and Yale Glacier, one is advancing, the other one retreating

Meares Glacier in Prince William Sound

Columbia Glacier: 20 years ago all of the water in this picture would have still been ice covered. Just a few years ago it separated into the two different branches.

A look over the upper Columbia Glacier into the Tazlina Glacier and into interior Alaska.

The Wrangell volcanoes (Drum, Sanford, Mt. Wrangell) in the background. These are the most inland volcanoes in Alaska. Mt. Wrangell (the big shield volcano on the right) is still thermally active with occasional steam plumes.

A look into the Copper River that cuts right through the Chugach Mountains. The Childs and Miles Glacier come into the river valley from either side. One can recognize the Million Dollar Bridge that was built as part of the railroad from Cordova to McCarthy to extract copper. It was abandoned in the late 1930s.

Parts of the Bering Glacier and the Bagley Ice Valley, the largest continuous ice mass in Alaska. In the background are the Wrangell volcanoes.

Icy Bay with Yahtse Glacier on the right

Tyndall Glacier descends from the 5400 m high Mt. St.Elias to sea level, probably one of the largest drops in elevation anywhere on the planet. In the background is Canada's highest mountain; the massive Mt. Logan.

A look from the large Malaspina Glacier through the 'Seward Throat' into the Bagley Ice Valley

Hubbard Glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers on Earth

Another look into the Hubbard Glacier. On the right is Russell Fiord, which might become a lake if the glacier keeps advancing.

Yakutat Glacier. We had a project there during the past few years and the glacier has lost more than 10 km2 of ice and separated into two branches in the past few years. The glacier front is difficult to recognize here, because of the frozen lake.

Alsek Lake and Alsek Glacier

Alsek Lake

And finally: landing in Juneau with Mendenhall Glacier.
What a flight!