• Blood falls, Taylor Glacier, Antarctica: subglacially-sourced outflow at the surface of a cold polar glacier as recorded by time-lapse photography, seismic data, and historical observations

      Carr, Chris G.; Pettit, Erin; Carmichael, Joshua; Truffer, Martin; Tape, Carl (2021-05)
      Blood Falls forms when iron-rich, hypersaline, subglacially-sourced brine flows from a crack in the surface of Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. If air temperatures are low enough, the brine freezes to form a fan-shaped icing deposit. In chapter two, historical observations (including photos, oral histories, written descriptions, and field sketches) are evaluated using a confidence assessment framework to compile a history of brine icing deposit presence or absence during summer field seasons between 1903-1904 and 1993-1994. Additionally, an alternative explanation for a small, localized advance of a portion of the terminus is proposed: rather than temperature-driven ice viscosity changes, rising lake level drove temporary, localized basal sliding which induced advance, thinning, and collapse of a part of the terminus previously grounded on a proglacial moraine. In chapter three, time-lapse imagery is used to document a 2014 wintertime brine release that occurred in the absence of surface melt. This suggests that meltwater-driven fracture propagation of surface crevasses downward into the glacier was not a likely factor in this brine release event, as has been previously proposed. Further, there is no evidence for an increase in Rayleigh-wave activity prior to or during the brine release that would be characteristic of shallow seismic sources. Together, this suggests that sufficient pressure is built in the subglacial system to trigger basal crevassing and fracture propagation upward to allow brine release at the surface. In chapter four, two different seismic detectors that use ratios of short-term to long-term seismic energy variance to identify seismic events are compared. The detectors use different statistical distributions to determine what constitutes a large enough ratio to trigger an event detection. Differences between what the two detectors identify as events rather than background noise are interpreted as environmental microseismicity with a distinct diurnal and seasonal occurrence. Minimum detectable event sizes over 3-day time windows are compared. Together, these studies provide context for the history of brine release events, wintertime brine release characteristics, and descriptions of the local seismic environment at Taylor Glacier.
    • Effects of sea ice seasonal evolution and oil properties on crude oil upward migration through sea ice

      Oggier, Marc; Eicken, Hajo; Collins, Eric; Barnes, David L.; Pettit, Erin; Truffer, Martin (2020-12)
      Sea ice plays an essential role in polar ecosystems as a habitat for organisms at the base of the food web. Receding Arctic perennial sea ice, potential oil and gas reserves, and increasing industrial activities in the Arctic are likely to increase oil extraction and transport in the maritime Arctic. Despite a decrease in summer sea ice extent, Arctic waters remain covered with sea ice for much of the year, increasing the risk of an oil spill in and under Arctic sea ice. This dissertation addresses the need for a quantitative understanding of the timing of and constraints on oil mobilization through the full seasonal cycle as well as the resulting oil distribution within the ice cover. All of these factors have major implications for spill clean-up efforts and habitat damage assessments. In Chapter 1, I assemble sea ice physical properties derived from long-term observations to characterize sea ice seasonal development stages. In Chapter 2, guided by results from three sets of oil-in-ice tank experiments, I present a semi-empirical multistage oil migration model linked to sea ice seasonal stages. I also find that ice stratigraphy plays a major role in oil movement, with granular ice hindering oil movement. In Chapter 3, I quantify the microstructural differences between granular and columnar ice texture. While both pore spaces have similar pore and throat size distribution, the higher tortuosity of granular ice increases the distance oil and brine have to travel by up to 30% to cover the same vertical distance as in columnar ice. With a less connected pore space, granular ice permeability is estimated as one order of magnitude smaller than that of columnar ice during winter and at the onset of spring warming. Chapter 4 introduces a simple 1D vertical model with a small set of initial conditions to describe oil movement along a connected pore pathway, I constrain the oil flow by accounting for the lateral displacement of brine into the surrounding ice volume to improve prediction of the timing and distribution of oil-in-ice flow. Future coupling of this model to a model of ice growth and melt may help inform oil spill response and clean-up operations, and improve the understanding of oil migration in the context of natural resource damage assessments.
    • Exploring infrasound wavefields to characterize volcanic eruptions

      Iezzi, Alexandra M.; Fee, David; Tape, Carl; West, Michael; Izbekov, Pavel; Haney, Matthew (2020-08)
      Infrasound has become an increasingly popular way to monitor and characterize volcanic eruptions, especially when combined with multidisciplinary observations. Regardless of how close the infrasound instruments are to the eruption, the effects from propagation must be considered prior to characterizing and quantifying the source. In this dissertation, we focus on modeling the effects of the atmosphere and topography on the recorded infrasound waveforms in order to better interpret the acoustic source and its implications on the volcanic eruption as a whole. Alaska has 54 historically active volcanoes, one third of which have no local monitoring equipment. Therefore, remote sensing (including that of infrasound arrays) is relied upon for the detection, location, and characterization of volcanic eruptions. At long ranges, the wind and temperature structure of the atmosphere affects infrasound propagation, however, changes in these conditions are variable both in time and space. We apply an atmospheric reconstruction model to characterize the atmosphere and use infrasound propagation modeling techniques for a few recent eruptions in Alaska. We couple these atmospheric propagation results with array processing techniques to provide insight into detection capability and eruption dynamics for both transient and long-duration eruptions in Alaska. Furthermore, we explore the future implementation of this long-range infrasound propagation modeling as an additional monitoring tool for volcano observatories in real time. The quantication of volcanic emissions, including volume flow rate and erupted mass, is possible through acoustic waveform inversion techniques that account for the effects of propagation over topography. Previous volcanic studies have generally assumed a simple acoustic source (monopole), however, more complex source reconstructions can be estimated using a combination of monopole and dipole sources (multipole). We deployed an acoustic network around Yasur volcano, Vanuatu, which has eruptions every 1-4 minutes, including acoustic sensors along a tethered aerostat, allowing us to better constrain the acoustic source in three dimensions. We find that the monopole source is a good approximation when topography is accounted for, but that directionality cannot be fully discounted. Inversions for the dipole components produce estimates consistent with observed ballistic directionality, though these inversions are somewhat unstable given the station conguration. Future work to explore acoustic waveform inversion stability, uncertainty, and robustness should be performed in order to better estimate and quantify the explosion source. Volcanic explosions can produce large, ash-rich plumes that pose great hazard to aviation. We use a single co-located seismic and infrasound sensor pair to characterize 21 explosions at Mount Cleveland, Alaska over a four-year study period. While the seismic explosion signals were similar, the acoustic signals varied between explosions, with some explosions exhibiting single main compressional phase while other explosions had multiple compressions in a row. A notable observation is that the seismo-acoustic time lag varied between explosions, implying a change in the path between the source and receiver. We explore the influence of atmospheric effects, nonlinear propagation, and source depth within the conduit on this variable seismo-acoustic time lag. While changes in the atmospheric conditions can explain some of the observed variation, substantial residual time lags remain for many explosions. Additionally, nonlinear propagation does not result in a measurable difference for the acoustic onset. Therefore, using methods such as seismic particle motion analysis and cross correlation of waveforms between events, we conclude that varying source depth within the conduit likely plays a key role in the observed variation in the seismo-acoustic time lags at Mount Cleveland.
    • Modeling permafrost dynamics and water balance of Arctic watersheds in a changing climate

      Debolskiy, Matvey Vladimirovich; Hock, Regine; Romanovsky, Vladimir E.; Alexeev, Vladimir A.; Nicolsky, Dmitry J. (2020-12)
      Changes in climate across the Arctic in recent decades and especially the increase of near-surface air temperature promote signicant changes in key natural components of the Arctic including permafrost (defined as soil experiencing subzero temperature for more than two consecutive years). Recent borehole observations exhibit signicant increase in ground temperatures below the depths of seasonal variations. Modeling studies on a global scale suggest a steady decrease in area underlain by near-surface permafrost in the northern hemisphere in recent decades. Global projections for the next century predict further permafrost degradation depending on the greenhouse gas concentration trajectory. Permafrost degradation is not only associated with climate feedbacks but can also result in signicant changes in coastal and terrestrial ecosystems and increased risks of costly infrastructural damage for Arctic settlements. In addition, permafrost plays an important role in the terrestrial part of the Arctic freshwater cycle as the volumes of frozen ground are practically impermeable for subsurface moisture transport and contain excess water in the form of ground ice. Since geophysical observations bear signicant costs in the Arctic, especially in the remote areas, simulations performed with physically based numerical models allow researchers to assess the current state of permafrost in Arctic regions and make future projections of its dynamics and resulting hydrological impacts. In this dissertation we use numerical modeling in two distinct ways: 1) to estimate current and future ground temperature distribution with high resolution on a regional scale and 2) to evaluate the role permafrost degradation plays in changes in water balance of watersheds under changing climate. First, we study the permafrost evolution of the Seward Peninsula, Alaska over the 20th and 21st century using a distributed heat transfer model. Model parameters are calibrated with a variational data assimilation and are distributed across the study domain with an ecosystem type approach. Simulations suggest that the peninsula will experience a reduction in the near surface permafrost extent of up to 90% and an average increase in ground temperature across the peninsula up to 4.4°C towards the end of the 21st century under the high greenhouse gas concentration trajectory. Second, we perform an ensemble of millennia-long experiments by simulating hypothetical idealized small-scale watersheds placed in a typical Sub-Arctic setting with a physically based distributed hydrological model. In these experiments we single out the effects of temperature dependent subsurface moisture transport by applying air temperature change in our forcing scenarios only to sub-zero temperatures within a given year. Results suggest a long-term increase in annual runoff of 7-15% and a similar decrease in evapotranspiration under a prolonged (up to a millennia) air-temperature increase. The short-term (< 100 years) water balance response highly depends on soil permeability and the watersheds slope and profile curvature. The simulated changes in water balance are a direct result of the decrease in near- surface soil moisture and intensified subsurface moisture transport in the deeper soil layers due to the permafrost thaw. Additional experiments suggest that simplied models that do not include lateral subsurface moisture transport, as typically done in Earth System Models, can reproduce similar changes in equilibrium water balance to the ones predicted by more sophisticated models for the watersheds with gentle slopes. We also find that if the air temperature trend is reversed and watersheds are experiencing prolonged cooling, a high degree of hysteresis in water balance behavior can be observed, however, the long-term changes in water balance are equal in their amplitude. Additionally, we find that initial soil moisture distribution in the deeper soil which is essentially a consequence of the paleoclimate (given the same permeability and topography) determines the overall soil moisture storage deciency which in turn results in the lag between the onset of warming and the increase in total runoff. The deficit in soil moisture storage is highly dependent on the watersheds topography.
    • Temporal-spatial micro-scale investigations of shallow silicic conduits: late-stage degassing, crystallization, and alteration

      Almberg, Leslie D. (2010-05)
      "Conduit samples from Unzen Volcano, obtained a decade after the 1991-1995 eruption, exhibit important physical and mineralogical differences, and subtle differences in bulk chemistry from erupted samples. These differences reflect emplacement confining pressures, maintenance at hypersolidus temperature, and subsequent subsolidus hydrothermal alteration. In contrast, extruded lava underwent decompression to ~1 atm., ~complete loss of magmatic water and rapid cooling. The resulting hypabyssal conduit texture is distinct from both eruptive and plutonic rocks. The low temperature of the conduit, <200°C when sampled by drilling, requires swift post-emplacement textural development. Significant changes in bulk composition were Mg, Fe and Na depletion and C and S enrichment. Trace-element concentrations of the conduit and the last-emplaced lava of the spine indicate a common derivation. Investigating three aspects of magma transport and post-emplacement evolution at Unzen, in conjunction with observations from comparable dome-forming volcanoes, quantifies the processes working in concert to produce the resultant textures. First, we constrain magmatic ascent rates and crystallization depth of the Unzen dacite via decompression crystallization experiments. Our results indicate that slow effusion rates (<̲20 m/hr) are required for both spine and conduit. Second, we present mineralogical evidence for extremely rapid alteration beneath Unzen, related to temperature, permeability within and volatile flux through the volcanic edifice. We describe meter-scale variations in alteration conditions, and conclude that maintenance of permeability to low porosity allows basalt-derived volatiles to traverse the conduit zone promoting extremely rapid alteration, orders of magnitude greater than predicted by models for larger/deeper intrusions. This suggests that despite convective hydrothermal heat removal, chemical effects were limited to early loss of magmatic water and later addition of magmatic volatiles. The extensive alteration within Unzen's conduit contrasts the minimal alteration beneath Obsidian Dome, considered as a 'control'. Finally, we present anisotropy measurements and three-dimensional visualizations of degassing structures from four volcanoes: Bezymianny, Unzen, Mount St. Helens and Obsidian Dome. Our novel approach, employing X-ray computed tomography and percolation models, indicates that gas loss at depth is more efficient in sheared regions (anisotropic), than in those that contain no evidence for shearing (isotropic)"--Leaves iii-iv