• Effect of topography on subglacial discharge and submarine melting during tidewater glacier retreat.

      Amundson, J.M.; Carroll, D. (American Geophysical Union, 2017-12-07)
      To first order, subglacial discharge depends on climate, which determines precipitation fluxes and glacier mass balance, and the rate of glacier volume change. For tidewater glaciers, large and rapid changes in glacier volume can occur independent of climate change due to strong glacier dynamic feedbacks. Using an idealized tidewater glacier model, we show that these feedbacks produce secular variations in subglacial discharge that are influenced by subglacial topography. Retreat along retrograde bed slopes (into deep water) results in rapid surface lowering and coincident increases in subglacial discharge. Consequently, submarine melting of glacier termini, which depends on subglacial discharge and ocean thermal forcing, also increases during retreat into deep water. Both subglacial discharge and submarine melting subsequently decrease as glacier termini retreat out of deep water and approach new steady state equilibria. In our simulations, subglacial discharge reached peaks that were 6–17% higher than preretreat values, with the highest values occurring during retreat from narrow sills, and submarine melting increased by 14% for unstratified fjords and 51% for highly stratified fjords. Our results therefore indicate that submarine melting acts in concert with iceberg calving to cause tidewater glacier termini to be unstable on retrograde beds. The full impact of submarine melting on tidewater glacier stability remains uncertain, however, due to poor understanding of the coupling between submarine melting and iceberg calving.
    • Quantifying flow and stress in ice mélange, the world’s largest granular material.

      Burton, J. C.; Amundson, J. M.; Cassotto, R.; Kuo, C. C.; Dennin, M. (PNAS Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2018-03-29)
      Tidewater glacier fjords are often filled with a collection of calved icebergs, brash ice, and sea ice. For glaciers with high calving rates, this “m ́elange” of ice can be jam-packed, so that the flow of ice fragments is mostly determined by granular interactions. In the jammed state, ice m ́elange has been hypothesized to influence iceberg calving and capsize, dispersion and attenuation of ocean waves, injection of freshwater into fjords, and fjord circulation. However, detailed measurements of ice m ́elange are lacking due to difficulties in instrumenting remote, ice-choked fjords. Here we characterize the flow and associated stress in icem ́elange, using a combination of terrestrial radar data, laboratory experiments, and numerical simulations. We find that, during periods of terminus quiescence, ice m ́elange experiences laminar flow over timescales of hours to days. The uniform flow fields are bounded by shear margins along fjord walls where force chains between granular icebergs terminate. In addition, the average force per unit width that is transmitted to the glacier terminus, which can exceed 107N/m, increases exponentially with them ́elange length-to-width ratio. These “buttressing” forces are sufficiently high to inhibit the initiation of large-scale calving events, supporting the notion that ice m ́elange can be viewed as a weak granular ice shelf that transmits stresses from fjord walls back to glacier termini.
    • Quasi-static granular flow of ice mélange

      Amundson, J. M.; Burton, J. C. (American Geophysical Union, 2018-09-11)
      We use Landsat 8 imagery to generate ice mélange velocity fields at Greenland’s three most productive outlet glaciers: Jakobshavn Isbræ, Helheim Glacier, and Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier. Winter velocity fields are generally steady and highly uniform. Summer velocity fields, on the other hand, tend to be much more variable and can be uniform, compressional, or extensional. We rarely observe compressional flow at Jakobshavn Isbræ or extensional flow at Helheim Glacier, while both are observed at Kangerdlugssuaq Glacier. Transverse velocity profiles from all three locations are suggestive of viscoplastic flow, in which deformation occurs primarily in shear zones along the fjord walls. We analyze the transverse profiles in the context of quasi-static flow using continuum rheologies for granular materials and find that the force per unit width that ice mélange exerts on glacier termini increases exponentially with the ice mélange length-to-width ratio and the effective coefficient of friction. Our estimates of ice mélange resistance are consistent with other independent estimates and suggest that ice mélange may be capable of inhibiting iceberg calving events, especially during winter. Moreover, our results provide geophysical-scale support for constitutive relationships for granular materials and suggest a potential avenue for modeling ice mélange dynamics with continuum models.
    • Seismic Tremor Reveals Spatial Organization and Temporal Changes of Subglacial Water System

      Vore, Margot E.; Bartholomaus, Timothy, C.; Winberry, J. Paul; Walter, Jacob I.; Amundson, Jason M. (American Geophysical Union, 2019-02-09)
      Subglacial water flow impacts glacier dynamics and shapes the subglacial environment. However, due to the challenges of observing glacier beds, the spatial organization of subglacial water systems and the time scales of conduit evolution and migration are largely unknown. To address these questions, we analyze 1.5‐ to 10‐Hz seismic tremor that we associate with subglacial water flow, that is, glaciohydraulic tremor, at Taku Glacier, Alaska, throughout the 2016 melt season. We use frequency‐dependent polarization analysis to estimate glaciohydraulic tremor propagation direction (related to the subglacial conduit location) and a degree day melt model to monitor variations in melt‐water input. We suggest that conduit formation requires sustained water input and that multiconduit flow paths can be distinguished from single‐conduit flow paths. Theoretical analysis supports our seismic interpretations that subglacial discharge likely flows through a single‐conduit in regions of steep hydraulic potential gradients but may be distributed among multiple conduits in regions with shallower potential gradients. Seismic tremor in regions with multiple conduits evolves through abrupt jumps between stable configurations that last 3–7 days, while tremor produced by single‐conduit flow remains more stationary. We also find that polarized glaciohydraulic tremor wave types are potentially linked to the distance from source to station and that multiple peak frequencies propagate from a similar direction. Tremor appears undetectable at distances beyond 2–6 km from the source. This new understanding of the spatial organization and temporal development of subglacial conduits informs our understanding of dynamism within the subglacial hydrologic system.
    • Impact of glacier loss and vegetation succession on annual basin runoff

      Carnahan, Evan; Amundson, Jason; 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.
    • Meltwater Intrusions Reveal Mechanisms for Rapid Submarine Melt at a Tidewater Glacier

      Kienholtz, C.; Sutherland, D. A.; Jackson, R. H.; Nash, J. D.; Amundson, J. M.; Motyka, R. J.; Winters, D.; Skyllingstad, E.; Pettit, E. C. (American Geophysical Union, 2019-11-25)
      Submarine melting has been implicated as a driver of glacier retreat and sea level rise, but to date melting has been difficult to observe and quantify. As a result, melt rates have been estimated from parameterizations that are largely unconstrained by observations, particularly at the near-vertical termini of tidewater glaciers. With standard coefficients, these melt parameterizations predict that ambient melting (the melt away from subglacial discharge outlets) is negligible compared to discharge-driven melting for typical tidewater glaciers. Here, we present new data from LeConte Glacier, Alaska, that challenges this paradigm. Using autonomous kayaks, we observe ambient meltwater intrusions that are ubiquitous within 400 m of the terminus, and we provide the first characterization of their properties, structure, and distribution. Our results suggest that ambient melt rates are substantially higher (×100) than standard theory predicts and that ambient melting is a significant part of the total submarine melt flux. We explore modifications to the prevalent melt parameterization to provide a path forward for improved modeling of ocean-glacier interactions.