Elsberg, D.H., 2003

Publication Details

  • Title:

    Variations in ice flow and glaciers over time and space
  • Authors:

    Elsberg, D.H.
  • Publication Date:

    2003
  • Publisher:

    University of Alaska Fairbanks 
  • Ordering Info:

    Not available
  • Quadrangle(s):

    Anchorage; Cordova; Valdez

Bibliographic Reference

Elsberg, D.H., 2003, Variations in ice flow and glaciers over time and space: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 122 p.

Abstract

Ice flows and glaciers change over many time and spatial scales. Glacier surfaces evolve over decades, and this change affects the glacier-climate interaction. When a mass balance is computed using an outdated map, that computation does not reveal actual mass change. We present a method by which a mass balance computed with an outdated map can be transformed into actual mass change. While the actual volume change of a glacier is relevant to hydrological studies, the change that would have occurred on a static surface is more relevant to certain glacier dynamics problems and most climate problems. We term this the reference-surface balance and propose that such a balance is better correlated to climatic variations than the conventional one. Ice responds to stresses over time scales from seconds to millennia. We observed this using two independent strain-gauge systems to measure the strain rates as functions of depth and time at Siple Dome, Antarctica. One system employed optical fibers to measure annual strain rates over 175 m depth intervals. The other used one-meter resistance wires to measure strain approximately hourly at discrete depths. The long-term average strain rates from the two systems agreed to within 16%. The time-dependent strain rates measured beneath the divide by the resistance-wire gauges included intermittent strain events lasting up to 24 hours. We used the results from each system to compute an age-depth relationship assuming a time-independent ice flow geometry. Equilibrium line altitudes are related to climate, and they vary from year to year and among neighboring glaciers. We measured a regional pattern of equilibrium lines using remote sensing. Our goals were to evaluate the accuracy of such measurements, and to assess the spatial and temporal variability of the resulting data. Individual glacier equilibrium line altitudes varied by 100 m relative to a smoothed surface, and inter-annual variations in equilibrium line altitudes at one glacier were 74 m. A map of the regional pattern of equilibrium line altitudes shows variations of 1000 meters from the south to the north side of the range, but no major trend from east to west.

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