Flow dynamics of an accumulation basin: a case study of upper Kahiltna Glacier, Mount McKinley, Alaska

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We interpreted flow dynamics of the Kahiltna Pass Basin accumulation zone on Mount McKinley, Alaska, USA, using 40, 100 and 900 MHz ground-penetrating radar profiles and GPS surface velocity measurements. We found dipping, englacial surface-conformable strata that experienced vertical thickening as the glacier flowed westward from a steep, higher-velocity (60 m a−1) region into flat terrain associated with a 90° bend in the glacier and lower velocities (15 m a−1) to the south. Stratigraphy near the western side of the basin was surface-conformable to ∼170 m depth and thinned as flow diverged southward, down-glacier. We found complex strata beneath the conformable stratigraphy and interpret these features as buried crevasses, avalanche debris and deformed ice caused by up-glacier events. We also suggest that basin dimensions, bed topography and the sharp bend each cause flow extension and compression, significantly contributing to conformable and complex strata thickness variations. Our findings show that surface-conformable stratigraphy continuous with depth and consistent strata thicknesses cannot be assumed in accumulation basins, because local and up-glacier terrain and flow dynamics can cause structural complexities to occur under and within surface-conformable layers.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/2012JoG10J233

Publication date: February 1, 2012

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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