• Deglacierization of a marginal basin and implications for outburst floods

      Kienholz, Christian; Pierce, Jamie; Hood, Eran; Amundson, Jason M.; Wolken, Gabriel; Jacobs, Aaron; Hart, Skye; Jones, Katreen Wikstrom; Abdel-Fattah, Dina; Johnson, Crane; et al. (Frontiers in Earth Science, 2020-05-27)
      Suicide Basin is a partly glacierized marginal basin of Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska, that has released glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) annually since 2011. The floods cause inundation and erosion in the Mendenhall Valley, impacting homes and other infrastructure. Here, we utilize in-situ and remote sensing data to assess the recent evolution and current state of Suicide Basin. We focus on the 2018 and 2019 melt seasons, during which we collected most of our data, partly using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). To provide longer-term context, we analyze DEMs collected since 2006 and model glacier surface mass balance over the 2006–2019 period. During the 2018 and 2019 outburst flood events, Suicide Basin released ∼ 30 Å~ 106 m3 of water within approximately 4–5 days. Since lake drainage was partial in both years, these ∼ 30 Å~ 106 m3 represent only a fraction (∼ 60%) of the basin’s total storage capacity. In contrast to previous years, subglacial drainage was preceded by supraglacial outflow over the ice dam, which lasted ∼ 1 day in 2018 and 6 days in 2019. Two large calving events occurred in 2018 and 2019, with submerged ice breaking off the main glacier during lake filling, thereby increasing the basin’s storage capacity. In 2018, the floating ice in the basin was 36 m thick on average. In 2019, ice thickness was 29 m, suggesting rapid decay of the ice tongue despite increasing ice inflow from Mendenhall Glacier. The ice dam at the basin entrance thinned by more than 5 m a–1 from 2018 to 2019, which is approximately double the rate of the reference period 2006–2018. While ice-dam thinning reduces water storage capacity in the basin, that capacity is increased by declining ice volume in the basin and longitudinal lake expansion, with the latter process challenging to predict. The potential for premature drainage onset (i.e., drainage before the lake’s storage capacity is reached), intermittent drainage decelerations, and early drainage termination further complicates prediction of future GLOF events.
    • Key landscape and biotic indicators of watersheds sensitivity to forest disturbance identified using remote sensing and historical hydrography data

      Buma, Brian; Livneh, Ben (IOP Publishing, 2017-07-19)
      Water is one of the most critical resources derived from natural systems. While it has long been recognized that forest disturbances like fire influence watershed streamflow characteristics, individual studies have reported conflicting results with some showing streamflow increases postdisturbance and others decreases, while other watersheds are insensitive to even large disturbance events. Characterizing the differences between sensitive (e.g. where streamflow does change postdisturbance) and insensitive watersheds is crucial to anticipating response to future disturbance events. Here, we report on an analysis of a national-scale, gaged watershed database together with high-resolution forest mortality imagery. A simple watershed response model was developed based on the runoff ratio for watersheds (n=73) prior to a major disturbance, detrended for variation in precipitation inputs. Post-disturbance deviations from the expected water yield and streamflow timing from expected (based on observed precipitation) were then analyzed relative to the abiotic and biotic characteristics of the individual watershed and observed extent of forest mortality. The extent of the disturbance was significantly related to change in post-disturbance water yield (p<0.05), and there were several distinctive differences between watersheds exhibiting post-disturbance increases, decreases, and those showing no change in water yield. Highly disturbed, arid watersheds with low soil: water contact time are the most likely to see increases, with the magnitude positively correlated with the extent of disturbance. Watersheds dominated by deciduous forest with low bulk density soils typically show reduced yield post-disturbance. Postdisturbance streamflow timing change was associated with climate, forest type, and soil. Snowy coniferous watersheds were generally insensitive to disturbance, whereas finely textured soils with rapid runoff were sensitive. This is the first national scale investigation of streamflow postdisturbance using fused gage and remotely sensed data at high resolution, and gives important insights that can be used to anticipate changes in streamflow resulting from future disturbances.
    • Seasonal and interannual variations in ice melange and its impact on terminus stability, Jakobshavn Isbræ, Greenland

      Cassotto, Ryan; Fahnestock, Mark; Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Joughin, Ian (International Glaciological Society, 2014-09-29)
      We used satellite-derived surface temperatures and time-lapse photography to infer temporal variations in the proglacial ice melange at Jakobshavn Isbræ, a large and rapidly retreating outlet glacier in Greenland. Freezing of the melange-covered fjord surface during winter is indicated by a decrease in fjord surface temperatures and is associated with (1) a decrease in ice melange mobility and (2) a drastic reduction in iceberg production. Vigorous calving resumes in spring, typically abruptly, following the steady up-fjord retreat of the sea-ice/ice-melange margin. An analysis of pixel displacement from time-lapse imagery demonstrates that melange motion increases prior to calving and subsequently decreases following several events. We find that secular changes in ice melange extent, character and persistence can influence iceberg calving, and therefore glacier dynamics over daily-to-monthly timescales, which, if sustained, will influence the mass balance of an ice sheet.
    • Tracking icebergs with time-lapse photography and sparse optical flow, LeConte Bay, Alaska, 2016–2017

      Kienholtz, Christian; Amundson, Jason M.; Motyka, Roman J.; Jackson, Rebecca H.; Mickett, John B.; Sutherland, David A.; Nash, Jonathan D.; Winters, Dylan S.; Dryer, William P.; Truffer, Martin (International Glaciological Society, 2019-03-07)
      We present a workflow to track icebergs in proglacial fjords using oblique time-lapse photos and the Lucas-Kanade optical flow algorithm. We employ the workflow at LeConte Bay, Alaska, where we ran five time-lapse cameras between April 2016 and September 2017, capturing more than 400 000 photos at frame rates of 0.5–4.0 min−1 . Hourly to daily average velocity fields in map coordinates illustrate dynamic currents in the bay, with dominant downfjord velocities (exceeding 0.5 m s−1 intermittently) and several eddies. Comparisons with simultaneous Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) measurements yield best agreement for the uppermost ADCP levels (∼ 12 m and above), in line with prevalent small icebergs that trace near-surface currents. Tracking results from multiple cameras compare favorably, although cameras with lower frame rates (0.5 min−1 ) tend to underestimate high flow speeds. Tests to determine requisite temporal and spatial image resolution confirm the importance of high image frame rates, while spatial resolution is of secondary importance. Application of our procedure to other fjords will be successful if iceberg concentrations are high enough and if the camera frame rates are sufficiently rapid (at least 1 min−1 for conditions similar to LeConte Bay).
    • Tracking icebergs with time-lapse photography and sparse optical flow, LeConte Bay, Alaska, 2016–2017

      Kienholz, Christian; Amundson, Jason M.; Motyka, Roman J.; Jackson, Rebecca H.; Mickett, John B.; Sutherland, David A.; Nash, Jonathan D.; Winters, Dylan S.; Dryer, William P.; Truffer, Martin (Journal of Glaciology, 2019-03-07)
      We present a workflow to track icebergs in proglacial fjords using oblique time-lapse photos and the Lucas-Kanade optical flow algorithm. We employ the workflow at LeConte Bay, Alaska, where we ran five time-lapse cameras between April 2016 and September 2017, capturing more than 400 000 photos at frame rates of 0.5–4.0 min−1. Hourly to daily average velocity fields in map coordinates illustrate dynamic currents in the bay, with dominant downfjord velocities (exceeding 0.5 m s−1 intermittently) and several eddies. Comparisons with simultaneous Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) measurements yield best agreement for the uppermost ADCP levels (∼ 12 m and above), in line with prevalent small icebergs that trace near-surface currents. Tracking results from multiple cameras compare favorably, although cameras with lower frame rates (0.5 min−1) tend to underestimate high flow speeds. Tests to determine requisite temporal and spatial image resolution confirm the importance of high image frame rates, while spatial resolution is of secondary importance. Application of our procedure to other fjords will be successful if iceberg concentrations are high enough and if the camera frame rates are sufficiently rapid (at least 1 min−1 for conditions similar to LeConte Bay).