Sunday, September 7, 2014

It's already winter on Black Rapids Glacier

Last week we had a quick one-day visit to Black Rapids Glacier. After the wettest summer in Fairbanks since records are being kept, we had another impressive rain fall on the first day of September. Because it was quite cold, Black Rapids got up to 30 cm of snow and looked like the middle of winter. Luckily it was not enough snow to bury our instruments, and when we got there on Wednesday, we had a beautiful sunny day.

Camera used to watch glacial lakes drain. In the background are potholes, left over crevasses from the last surge (1936/37) that are often water-filled.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Operation Ice Bridge Alaska

 Every year we fly over many of Alaska's glaciers to measure changes in surface elevation. My colleague Chris Larsen has been responsible for this for over a decade now. Recently, this program has been funded through Operation Ice Bridge, a program that bridges the gap left between two orbiting laser satellites (Icesat 1 and 2).
Recently, I've been able to join this program to add a radar component with the goal of measuring the thickness of the glacier ice. For most glaciers in Alaska, we don't actually know how much ice they contain.
The beauty of airborne science is that it can only happen with good weather. Mountain flying poses so many challenges that we have to wait for conditions to be great. Last week we had five days of beautiful conditions and managed to cover a large part of Alaska's glaciers. Some impressions follow below.


Beautiful blue glacier lake

Late fall conditions with only little snow left on many glaciers

A drained glacier lake

Ultima Thule Lodge: our base of operations

The ever-amazing Mt. St.Elias from Icy Bay; 5400 m from bottom to top!

St. Elias with Malaspina Glacier in the foreground

Funky avalanche

Icy Bay

A really nice fold in Icy Bay; St. Elias in the background

Icy Bay

Tyndall Glacier in Icy Bay

Some Moose enjoying the lush vegetation of coastal Alaska
We saw much of the snow surface covered in red algae. This is sufficiently darker than the snow to cause additional melting and snow cups.

Close-up of red snow algea

The Bagley Icefield with Mt. Logan, arguably the largest mountain in the world. The area over 5000 m asl spans more than 15 km.

Pothole central on the upper Logan Glacier. These are believed to be left-over and water-filled crevasses and are associated with surges

A landslide onto a glacier

The advancing Taku Glacier

Band-ogives or Forbes bands, an alternating sequence of dark and bright ice forming under ice falls. This one is from the Juneau Ice Field.

Close up of Forbes' bands.

A large ice berg with runnels in the Columbia Glacier Bay

And finally a nice look at beginning fall in interior Alaska.