Mount Spurr (3,374 meters altitude) is an active volcano 130 kilometers west of Anchorage, Alaska, with an extensive covering of seasonal and perennial snow, and glaciers. Knowledge of the volume and distribution of snow and ice on a volcano aids in assessing hydrologic hazards such as floods, mudflows, and debris flows.
In July 1981, ice thickness was measured at 68 locations on the five main glaciers of Mount Spurr: 64 of these measurements were made using a portable 1.7 megahertz monopulse ice-radar system, and 4 measurements were made using the helicopter altimeter where the glacier bed was exposed by ice avalanching. The distribution of snow and ice derived from these measurements is depicted on contour maps and in tables compiled by altitude and by drainage basins.
Basal shear stresses at 20 percent of the measured locations ranged from 200 to 350 kilopascals, which is significantly higher than the 50 to 150 kilopascals commonly referred to in the literature as the 'normal' range for glaciers. Basal shear stresses higher than 'normal' have also been found on steep glaciers on volcanoes in the Cascade Range in the western United States.
The area of perennial snow and ice coverage on Mount Spurr was 360 square kilometers in 1981, with an average thickness of 190?50 meters. Seasonal snow increases the volume about 1 percent and increases the area about 30 percent with a maximum in May or June. Runoff from Mount Spurr feeds the Chakachatna River and the Chichantna River (a tributary of the Beluga River). The Chakachatna River drainage contains 14 cubic kilometers of snow and ice and the Chichantna River drainage contains 53 cubic kilometers.
The snow and ice volume on the mountain was 67?17 cubic kilometers, approximately 350 times more snow and ice than was on Mount St. Helens before its May 18, 1980, eruption, and 15 times more snow and ice than on Mount Rainier, the most glacierized of the measured volcanoes in the Cascade Range. On the basis of these relative quantities, hazard-producing glaciovolcanic phenomena at Mount Spurr could be significantly greater than similar phenomena at Cascade Volcanoes.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Snow and ice volume on Mount Spurr Volcano, Alaska, 1981
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey ;
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