• 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.
    • Impact of glacier loss and vegetation succession on annual basin runoff

      Carnahan, Evan; Amundson, Jason M.; Hood, Eran (Published by Copernicus Publications on behalf of the European Geosciences Union., 2019-03-21)
      We use a simplified glacier-landscape model to investigate the degree to which basin topography, climate regime, and vegetation succession impact centennial variations in basin runoff during glacier retreat. In all simulations, annual basin runoff initially increases as water is released from glacier storage but ultimately decreases to below preretreat levels due to increases in evapotranspiration and decreases in orographic precipitation. We characterize the long-term ( > 200 years) annual basin runoff curves with four metrics: the magnitude and timing of peak basin runoff, the time to preretreat basin runoff, and the magnitude of end basin runoff. We find that basin slope and climate regime have strong impacts on the magnitude and timing of peak basin runoff. Shallow sloping basins exhibit a later and larger peak basin runoff than steep basins and, similarly, continental glaciers produce later and larger peak basin runoff compared to maritime glaciers. Vegetation succession following glacier loss has little impact on the peak basin runoff but becomes increasingly important as time progresses, with more rapid and extensive vegetation leading to shorter times to preretreat basin runoff and lower levels of end basin runoff. We suggest that differences in the magnitude and timing of peak basin runoff in our simulations can largely be attributed to glacier dynamics: glaciers with long response times (i.e., those that respond slowly to climate change) are pushed farther out of equilibrium for a given climate forcing and produce larger variations in basin runoff than glaciers with short response times. Overall, our results demonstrate that glacier dynamics and vegetation succession should receive roughly equal attention when assessing the impacts of glacier mass loss on water resources.