Investigating changes in basal conditions of Variegated Glacier prior to and during its 1982–1983 surge

The Variegated Glacier (Alaska) is known to surge periodically after a sufficient amount of cumulative mass balance is reached, but this observation is difficult to link with changes in the basal conditions. Here, using a 10-year dataset, consisting in surface topography and surface velocity observations along a flow line for 25 dates, we have reconstructed the evolution of the basal conditions prior and during the 1982–1983 surge. The model solves the full-Stokes problem along the central flow line using the finite element method. For the 25 dates of the dataset, the basal friction parameter distribution is inferred using the inverse method proposed by Arthern and Gudmundsson (2010). This method is here slightly modified by incorporating a regularisation term in the cost function to avoid short wave length changes in the friction parameter. Our results indicate that dramatic changes in the basal conditions occurred between 1973 to 1983. Prior to the surge, periodical changes can be observed between winter and summer, with a regular increase of the sliding from 1973 to 1982. During the surge, the basal friction decreased dramatically and an area of very low friction moved from the upper part of the glacier to its terminus. Using a more complex friction law, these changes in basal sliding are then interpreted in terms of basal water pressure. It confirms that dramatic changes took place in the subglacial drainage system of Variegated Glacier, moving from a relatively efficient drainage system prior to the surge to an in efficient one during the surge. By reconstructing the water pressure evolution at the base of the glacier it is possible to infer realistic scenarios for the hydrological history leading to the occurrence of a surge.

Details

Publication status:
Published
Author(s):
Authors: Jay-Allemand, M., Gillet-Chaulet, F., Gagliardini, O., Nodet, M.

Date:
1 January, 2011
Journal/Source:
The Cryosphere / 5
Page(s):
659-672
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-5-659-2011