Truffer, Martin, 1999

Publication Details

  • Title:

    Till deformation beneath Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, and its implication on glacier motion
  • Authors:

    Truffer, Martin
  • Publication Date:

    1999
  • Publisher:

    University of Alaska Fairbanks 
  • Ordering Info:

    Not available
  • Quadrangle(s):

    Mount Hayes

Bibliographic Reference

Truffer, Martin, 1999, Till deformation beneath Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, and its implication on glacier motion: University of Alaska Fairbanks, Ph.D. dissertation, 91 p.

Abstract

The motion of a glacier is largely determined by the nature of its bed. The basal morphology and its reaction to the overlying ice mass have been subject to much speculation, because the glacier bed is usually difficult to access, and good field data are sparse. In spring 1997 a commercial wireline drill rig was set up on Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, to extract cores of basal ice, subglacial till, and underlying bedrock. One of the boreholes was equipped with three tiltmeters to monitor till deformation, and a piezometer to record pore water pressure. The surface velocity and ice deformation in a borehole were also measured. The drill successfully reached bedrock twice after penetrating a till layer, some 5 to 7 m in thickness, confirming an earlier seismic interpretation. The till consisted of a sandy matrix containing clasts up to boulder size. Bedrock and till lithology indicated that all the drill holes were located to the north of the Denali Fault, a major tectonic boundary along which the glacier flows. The mean annual surface velocity of the glacier was 60 ma-1 , of which 20 to 30 ma-1 were ice deformation, leaving 30 to 40 ma-1 of basal motion. The majority of this basal motion occurred at a depth of more than 2 m in the till, contradicting previously held ideas about till deformation. Basal motion could occur as sliding of till over the underlying bedrock, or on a series of shear layers within the till. This finding has implications for the interpretation of the geologic record of former ice sheets, for geomorphology, and for glacier dynamics. The effect of a thick till layer on ice flow and on quantities observable at the glacier surface was calculated. These include velocity changes on secular, seasonal, and shorter time scales. A mechanism for uplift events and dye tracing responses was suggested. An easy surface observation that could serve to clearly distinguish a glacier underlain by till from the more traditional view of a glacier underlain by bedrock could not be identified.

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