Monday, May 25, 2015

Impressions from Operation IceBridge Alaska

Each year we fly over many of Alaska's glaciers with lasers and radar to measure how much the ice surface is changing (laser) and how thick the ice is (radar). Here are some impressions from the May campaign that was just concluded.
The first few pictures are from Icy Bay, one of the most spectacular places I've ever seen.

The mighty Mt. St. Elias (5,489 m)

The top of Mt. Wrangell, a massive ice-covered shield volcano

Hubbard Glacier is one of the very few advancing glaciers in Alaska and indeed the whole world. If the advance continues, it threatens to close of an entire fjord and turn it into a lake. We expect that to happen (at least temporarily) in the next few years. But not this year, apparently. The gap at Gilbert Point is much wider than it usually is this time of the year. It's possible that this is attributable to much warmer than usual ocean water in the Gulf of Alaska.

The gap at Gilbert Point

Dirt-covered glacier ice advancing onto a glacial outwash plain

Snow runnels, higher up on the glacier

The Burrough's Glacier in Glacier Bay is a left-over from the collapse of a large ice field that has occurred during the past 250 years. It is a remnant glacier the last of which will quickly disappear.

Beautiful blue supraglacial lake. Melt is earlier than usual this year with record May temperatures.

The Bagley Icevalley

This lake has filled, clearing the ice, and then drained, leaving clean ice exposed

The Kennicott Glacier by McCarthy with the beautiful Stairway Icefall, which must be one of the highest ice falls in the world.

A rockfall on the West Fork Glacier in the Alaska Range. It happened during the 2002 Denali Fault Earthquake.

Mt. Blackburn and the Kennicott Glacier

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