Arctic melting? Not everywhere says study of Alaska Range glaciers

February 10, 2012 • Filed under: News — erica.franich

Undergraduate research student Sam Herreid will discuss a surprising lack of response to global warming.

Alaska Range glaciers avoid melting amid talk of global warming

Glaciers in Alaska are melting at an accelerated rate. Increased glacier melt leads to an increase in rock debris on top of a glacier. When this rock layer reaches a thickness of about 2 cm or more, the rate of melt will decrease by insulating the underlying ice from thermal energy. In fall of 2010, about 14% (or ~906 km2) of glacier ice in the Alaska Range was covered by a supraglacial debris layer. Here we present remote sensing and field based measurements of supraglacial debris in the Alaska Range with three points of focus: (1) the effect on melt rate, (2) the change in spatial extent over time and (3) the thermal properties of a debris layer. Results from this study will aid the development of a regional scale model quantifying glacier melt under a debris layer.


Courtesy Sam Herreid

Measurements of supraglacial debris thickness were collected on six glaciers in the Eastern Alaska Range in 2011. Like many projects, researchers were on a tight budget. While looking for a helicopter at the local transfer station all they could find were bicycles.

Friday Seminar Series

  • What:Alaska Range glaciers avoid melting amid talk of global warming
  • Who: Presenter Sam Herreid
  • When: 3:30-4:30 p.m. Friday, Feb.17
  • Where: 531 Duckering

Seminar schedule in PDF