Hubbard Glacier is the largest tidewater glacier in North America. In contrast to most glaciers in Alaska and northwestern Canada, Hubbard Glacier thickened and advanced during the 20th century. This atypical behavior is an important example of how insensitive to climate a glacier can become during parts of the calving glacier cycle. As this glacier continues to advance, it will close the seaward entrance to 50 km long Russell Fjord and create a glacier-dammed, brackish-water lake. This paper describes measured changes in ice thickness, ice speed, terminus advance and fjord bathymetry of Hubbard Glacier, as determined from airborne laser altimetry, aerial photogrammetry, satellite imagery and bathymetric measurements. The data show that the lower regions of the glacier have thickened by as much as 83 m in the last 41 years, while the entire glacier increased in volume by 14.1 km3. Ice speeds are generally decreasing near the calving face from a high of 16.5 m d-1 in 1948 to 11.5 m d-1 in 2001. The calving terminus advanced at an average rate of about 16 m a-1 between 1895 and 1948 and accelerated to 32 m a-1 since 1948. However, since 1986, the advance of the part of the terminus in Disenchantment Bay has slowed to 28 m a-1. Bathymetric data from the lee slope of the submarine terminal moraine show that between 1978 and 1999 the moraine advanced at an average rate of 32 m a-1, which is the same as that of the calving face.
Additional Publication Details
The slow advance of a calving glacier: Hubbard Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A