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Columbia Glacier, Alaska recent ice loss and its relationship to seasonal terminal embayments, thinning and glacial flow

Hydrologic Atlas 619

By:
and

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Abstract

In 1974 the U.S. Geological Survey began an intensive investigation of the stability of Columbia Glacier, a calving tidewater galcier terminating in Columbia Bay, near Valdez, Alaska. Aerial photographs taken in 1957 and a sequence of photographs taken at about 2-month intervals since 1976, when analyzed photogrammetrically, provided detailed data on changes in Columbia Glacier 's thickness, flow rate, and terminal position. Annual embayments in the glacier 's terminus form during the summer-autumn season in most years; the size of embayments appears to be related to (1) the thickness of the glacier, and (2) the position and nature of subglacial freshwater discharge. Embayments have apparently increased in size in recent years; the largest embayments yet observed formed in 1975, 1976, 1977, and 1978. From April 1, 1977, to April 1, 1978, the total volume of ice calved was about 1.0 cubic kilometer. By January 1979 the glacier front had retreated from Heather Island. Glacier flow varies seasonally and synchronously in the lower 17 kilometers of the glacier; large accelerations occur near the terminus in response to embayment formation. Daily speed within 5 kilometers of the terminus increased from about 1.9 meters per day between 1963 and 1968 to about 2.7 meters per day between 1977 and 1978. In the lowest 15 kilometers, the glacier surface was lowered about 9 meters between 1957 and 1974, and about 13 meters between 1974 and 1978. Columbia Glacier is being reduced in mass due, in part, to recent losses caused by large embayments forming annually. If such reduction continues it will result in a drastic retreat. (USGS)

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Columbia Glacier, Alaska recent ice loss and its relationship to seasonal terminal embayments, thinning and glacial flow
Series title:
Hydrologic Atlas
Series number:
619
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1980
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
31 maps ;on 3 sheets 106 x 85 cm. or smaller.
Scale:
1