Thursday, September 3, 2015

Operation IceBridge Alaska, Fall 2015

Each year in May and again in August we fly over many of Alaska's glaciers to measure how much they change and recently we are also measuring ice thickness with an airborne radar. The surface measurements have happened for over 20 years, started by Keith Echelmeyer and continued by Chris Larsen. These flights give us a unique opportunity to see the large variety of glaciers that Alaska has and the measurements document how dramatically they change.

The survey plane is a DHC-2 Single Otter; the perfect airplane for the remote mountains of Alaska.

We base our operations out of Ultima Thule Lodge, operated by the family of Paul Claus, the skilled pilot of the Single Otter

The western margin Bering Glacier calving into a lake

Parts of Bering Glacier have become so stagnant that a forest is growing on top of the ice

A forest with crevasses, how strange is that?

This is a landslide on the Bagley Ice Field. The debris has been distorted by glacier flow

This is a fresh landslide, also on the Bagley Ice Field

The mighty Mt. Logan behind the massive Bagley Ice Valley

In late summer much of the snow is gone from the glaciers and all the distorted layers in the ice become visible.

The glaciers in the Chugach Mountains are not looking very healthy. Many of them have almost no snow left at the end of the summer, even at their highest elevations.

Here is a healthy glacier for a change: Yahtse Glacier in Icy Bay is steadily advancing.

Icy Bay is truly one of the world's most spectacular places. This magnificent water fall was only just revealed by the retreating ice.

Another example of a remnant glacier that doesn't have long to live.

This is a particularly interesting glacier: Sherman Glacier in the Chugach Mountains. It was covered by a massive landslide during the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake. The landslide protected the underlying ice from melting, and it was slowly advancing towards the front. Consequently the glacier is now advancing and will continue to do so until it becomes separated at the back.

A close-up of the Sherman Glacier surface

Rock glacier

The Alaska Range on the way home. During the past two weeks the mountains have changed from late summer to early winter.