Monday, May 16, 2016

Operation IceBridge: The Stikine Ice Field

One of the most amazing things I get to do as a glaciologist is to help survey many or Alaska's glaciers from the air, as part of NASA's Operation IceBridge. This spring we have a big program and we started at the very southern end of the state: The Stikine Ice Field. Below are some impressions.

We based our flights out of Petersburg, Alaska; one of the most picturesque places in the state. In the background, the ice field with its most prominent mountain, the Devil's Thumb, is recognizable.

The best-known glacier of the ice field is LeConte Glacier, the southernmost tidewater glacier in the northern hemisphere:

Adjacent to LeConte Glacier is Baird Glacier. Until last year, it was a land-terminating glacier. But then a big subglacial flood floated the terminus and now the glacier ends in a lake. It looks like it might be retreating for a while.

 The flood on the Baird came out of a weirdly amazing place: The Witche's Cauldron. It's in the picture below, the area in front of Devil's Thumb. A big subglacial lake forms in the cauldron and then catastrophically releases along the Baird Glacier.

On the way home we passed the Juneau Ice Field. Here is a nice shot of the Hole-In-The-Wall Glacier (on the right) and Taku Glacier (on the left). Both are advancing glaciers. The Hole-In-The-Wall Glacier didn't even exist 150 years ago, it only formed when the Taku Glacier readvanced and spilled over.

And, finally, here is our science platform. The Single Otter, piloted by famous bush pilot Paul Claus

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