Surge-like behavior at the non-surge type Matanuska Glacier, Alaska

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Masato Furuya and Takahiro Abe, Hokkaido University, Sapporo, Japan
Seasonal glacier velocity changes are attributed to subglacial slip associated with water pressure changes that occur because of the seasonal variability of meltwater input. Abe and Furuya (2014) reported winter speed-up signals and their downglacier propagation at a number of glaciers near the border of Alaska and Yukon, based on ALOS/PALSAR radar image analyses. Here we perform the similar analyses at the Chugach mountain range of South Central Alaska, and report the spatial-temporal evolution of the Matanuska Glacier. Matanuska Glacier is the largest accessible glacier in Alaska with its nearly 40 km length and 5 km width near the terminus. Comparing the winter velocity images in 2007, 2008 and 2010, those in 2010 were about 1.5-2 times faster than those during the previous two years. In addition, comparing the fall and winter velocities, winter velocities were apparently faster at every 2007-2008, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011 season. These data indicate winter speed-up or mini-surge signals even at a temperate and non-surgetype Matanuska Glacier. We also examine the spatial-temporal elevation changes, using data from the LiDAR altimeter in the Icebridge mission, and found significant elevation increase near the terminus. Winter speed-up may not be uncommon at Alaskan/Yukon glaciers. Lingle and Fatland (2003) detected faster speed in winter than in fall at non-surging Seward Glacier in the St. Elias Mountains; this is the only published and unambiguous report of winter speed-up, to our knowledge. Combined with earlier glacier hydrological studies, Lingle and Fatland proposed englacial water storage and gravity-driven water flow toward the bed in winter regardless of whether a given glacier is surge-type or not, and considered that the capacity of englacial water storage would control if a given glacier was surge-type or not. We consider that our measurements are complementary to Lingle and Fatland’s observations and lend further support for their hypothesis. Basal crevasse observed at Bench Glacier, Alaska, by Harper et al (2010) could be a possible form of englacial water storage. Because it has no direct route to the surface but can store significant volume of water near the bed, basal crevasse may generate high water pressure when they become constricted due to creep closure in winter.