The propagation of a surge front on Bering Glacier, Alaska, 2001–2011

TitleThe propagation of a surge front on Bering Glacier, Alaska, 2001–2011
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsTurrin, J, Forster, RR, Larsen, CF, Sauber, J
JournalAnnals of Glaciology

Bering Glacier, Alaska, USA, has a ∼20 year surge cycle, with its most recent surge reaching the terminus in 2011. To study this most recent activity a time series of ice velocity maps was produced by applying optical feature-tracking methods to Landsat-7 ETM+ imagery spanning 2001–11. The velocity maps show a yearly increase in ice surface velocity associated with the down-glacier movement of a surge front. In 2008/09 the maximum ice surface velocity was 1.5 ± 0.017 km a–1 in the mid-ablation zone, which decreased to 1.2 ± 0.015 km a–1 in 2009/10 in the lower ablation zone, and then increased to nearly 4.4 ± 0.03 km a–1 in summer 2011 when the surge front reached the glacier terminus. The surge front propagated down-glacier as a kinematic wave at an average rate of 4.4 ± 2.0 km a–1 between September 2002 and April 2009, then accelerated to 13.9 ± 2.0 km a–1 as it entered the piedmont lobe between April 2009 and September 2010. The wave seems to have initiated near the confluence of Bering Glacier and Bagley Ice Valley as early as 2001, and the surge was triggered in 2008 further down-glacier in the mid-ablation zone after the wave passed an ice reservoir area.