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

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

      Kienholtz, C.; Sutherland, D. A.; Jackson, R. H.; Nash, J. D.; Amundson, Jason 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.
    • Rapid submarine melting driven by subglacial discharge, LeConte Glacier, Alaska

      Motyka, R. J.; Dryer, William P.; Amundson, Jason M.; Truffer, Martin; Fahnestock, Mark (American Geophysical Union, 2013-09-27)
      We show that subglacial freshwater discharge is the principal process driving high rates of submarine melting at tidewater glaciers. This buoyant discharge draws in warm seawater, entraining it in a turbulent upwelling flow along the submarine face that melts glacier ice. To capture the effects of subglacial discharge on submarine melting, we conducted 4 days of hydrographic transects during late summer 2012 at LeConte Glacier, Alaska. A major rainstorm allowed us to document the influence of large changes in subglacial discharge. We found strong submarine melt fluxes that increased from 9.1 ± 1.0 to 16.8 ± 1.3 m d1 (ice face equivalent frontal ablation) as a result of the rainstorm. With projected continued global warming and increased glacial runoff, our results highlight the direct impact that increases in subglacial discharge will have on tidewater outlet systems. These effects must be considered when modeling glacier response to future warming and increased runoff.
    • 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.