Debris cover and the thinning of Kennicott Glacier, Alaska, Part C: feedbacks between melt, ice dynamics, and surface processes release_b6dydptgvfaw5kfw25sfotnd5m

by Leif S. Anderson, William H. Armstrong, Robert S. Anderson, Pascal Buri

Published in The Cryosphere Discussions by Copernicus GmbH.

2019   p1-25

Abstract

<strong>Abstract.</strong> The mass balance of many valley glaciers is enhanced by the presence of melt hotspots within otherwise continuous debris cover. We assess the effect of debris, melt hotspots, and ice dynamics on the thinning of Kennicott Glacier in three companion papers. In Part A we report in situ measurements from the debris-covered tongue. In Part B, we develop a method to delineate ice cliffs using high-resolution imagery and produce distributed mass balance estimates. Here in Part C we describe feedbacks controlling rapid thinning under thick debris. Despite the extreme abundance of ice cliffs on Kennicott Glacier, average melt rates are strongly suppressed downglacier due to thick debris. The estimated melt pattern therefore appears to reflect Østrem's curve (the debris thickness-melt relationship). As Kennicott Glacier has thinned over the last century Østrem's curve has manifested itself in two process domains on the glacier surface. The portion of the glacier affected by the upper-limb of Østrem's curve corresponds to high melt, melt gradients, and ice dynamics, as well as high ice cliff and stream occurrence. The portion of the glacier affected by the lower-limb of Østrem's curve corresponds to low melt, melt gradients, and ice dynamics, as well as high ice cliff and stream occurrence. The upglacier end of the zone of maximum thinning on Kennicott Glacier occurs at the boundary between these process domains and the bend in Østrem's curve. The expansion of debris upglacier appears to be linked to changes in the surface velocity pattern through time. In response to climate warming, debris itself may therefore control where rapid thinning occurs on debris-covered glaciers. Ice cliffs are most abundant at the upglacier end of the zone of maximum thinning.
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Date   2019-09-20
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