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Development and application of a time-lapse photograph analysis method to investigate the link between tidewater glacier flow variations and supraglacial lake drainage events

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Marine-terminating glaciers may experience seasonal and short-term flow variations, which can impact rates of ice flux through the glacier terminus. We explore the relationship between variability in the flow of a large tidewater glacier (Belcher Glacier, Nunavut, Canada), the seasonal cycle of surface meltwater production and the rapid drainage of supraglacial lakes. We demonstrate a novel method for analyzing time-lapse photography to quantify lake area change rates (a proxy for net filling and drainage rates) and develop a typology of lake drainage styles. GPS records of ice motion reveal four flow acceleration events which can be linked to lake drainage events discovered in the time-lapse photography. These events are superimposed on a longer pattern of velocity variation that is linked to seasonal variation in surface melting. At the terminus of the glacier, the ice displacement associated with the lake drainage events constitutes ∼10% of the seasonally accelerated displacement or 0.4% of the total annual ice displacement (336 m a–1). While the immediate ice response to these individual perturbations may be small, these drainage events may enhance overall seasonal acceleration by opening and/or sustaining meltwater conduits to the glacier bed.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2013-04-01

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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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