Surge dynamics on Bering Glacier, Alaska, in 2008–2011
1Department of Geography, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA
2Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA
3Department of Geography, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany
Abstract. A surge cycle of the Bering Glacier system, Alaska, is examined using observations of surface velocity obtained using synthetic aperture radar (SAR) offset tracking, and elevation data obtained from the University of Alaska Fairbanks LiDAR altimetry program. After 13 yr of quiescence, the Bering Glacier system began to surge in May 2008 and had two stages of accelerated flow. During the first stage, flow accelerated progressively for at least 10 months and reached peak observed velocities of ~ 7 m d−1. The second stage likely began in 2010. By 2011 velocities exceeded 9 m d−1 or ~ 18 times quiescent velocities. Fast flow continued into July 2011. Surface morphology indicated slowing by fall 2011; however, it is not entirely clear if the surge is yet over.
The quiescent phase was characterized by small-scale acceleration events that increased driving stresses up to 70%. When the surge initiated, synchronous acceleration occurred throughout much of the glacier length. Results suggest that downstream propagation of the surge is closely linked to the evolution of the driving stress during the surge, because driving stress appears to be tied to the amount of resistive stress provided by the bed. In contrast, upstream acceleration and upstream surge propagation is not dependent on driving stress evolution.