Carbon Lake Glacier Retreat, Alaska

On Baranof Island in southeast Alaska there are a pair of unnamed glaciers at the headwaters of the Carbon Lake watershed, that then drains into Chatham Strait.  Here we examine changes in these glacier from 1986 to 2014 using Landsat imagery.  The blue arrow indicates the northern glacier terminus and the yellow arrow the southern glacier terminus region.

carbon lake ge

In 1986 the southern glacier terminus, yellow arrow consisted of three main tributaries combining to form a low sloped terminus region.  The northern glacier had a single terminus.  By 1997 a lake has formed at the southern glacier, which now has two separate termini, the red arrow indicates a new terminus area and the pink arrow the eastern portion of this glacier.  The northern glacier, blue arrow, is retreating but still joined.  By 2014 the southern glacier has separated into three parts.  There is a terminus at the red arrow, this represents a 900 m retreat since 1986.  This portion of the glacier has further separated since 1997 into two parts.  The eastern glacier, pink arrow has retreated 700 m since 1986.  The new alpine lake is 600 m long.  The northern glacier, blue arrow, has separated into two main termini and the glacier has retreated 200 m.   The retreat of these glaciers paralells the observed losses of other smaller glacier in the region most notably Lemon Creek Glacier, which is a World Glacier Monitoring Service reference glacier, 30 km west on the edge of the Juneau Icefield.  Another nearby example is Sinclair Glacier.  Lemon Creek Glacier has lost more than 25 m of glacier thickness during the 1953-2014 period when its mass balance has been observed by the Juneau Icefield Research Program, and has retreated more than 1 km.

carbon lake 1986

1986 Landsat image Carbon Lake Glaciers

carbon lake 1997

1997 Landsat image Carbon Lake Glaciers

carbon lake 2014

2014 Landsat image of Carbon Glacier



Nizina Glacier Retreat, Lake Formation, Alaska

If you have heard of Nizina Glacier in the Wrangell Mountains of Alaska it is probably because you have contemplated a float trip down the Nizina River from Nizina Lake.  In 1990 there was no lake, since 2000 the lake has provided a good location for float planes to land.  In 2014 the lake has reached a new maximum in size and minimum in icebergs on its surface.  Here we examine Landsat imagery form 1990-2014 to identify changes in the Nizina Glacier.  The main tributary of the Nizina Glacier is Regal Glacier indicated by the dark blue flow arrows.  The light blue flow arrows are from the Rohn Glacier tributary that no longer reaches the terminus area.

nizina ge

Google Earth image

In each image the yellow arrow marks the 1990 terminus, red arrow the 2014 terminus location and pink arrows the summer snowline.  In 1990 the glacier had narrow sections of fringing lake evident, though the glacier reached the southern shore of the developing lake at yellow arrow.  By 1995 the lake had developed to a width of 100-300 m fringing the shoreline around the terminus of Nizina Glacier.  In 1999 the main lake has developed and is 1.6 km long and 1.3 km wide though it is still largely filled with icebergs.  In 2013 there are a few icebergs left in the lake.  In August, 2014 the lake is free of icebergs for the first time, which does mean more will not form. The lake is 1.4 km wide and 2.3 km long.  The glacier has retreated 2.1 km from 1990 to 2014, a rate of 150 m per year, red arrow marks 2014 terminus. A close up view of the terminus in Google Earth from 2012 indicates numerous icebergs but also substantial rifts, green arrows, that will lead to further iceberg production and retreat.  The snowline in this late July or early August images is typically at 1800-1900 m, pink arrow, with a month still left in the melt season. The retreat of this glacier is similar to that of glaciers in the Talkeetna Range to the west South Sheep Glacier and Sovereign Glacier and Valdez Glacier to the south.

nizina glacier 1990

1990 Landsat image


nizina glacier 1995

nizina glacier 19991995 Landsat image

nizina glacier 1999

1999 Landsat image

nizina glacier 2013

2013 Landsat image

nizina glacier 2014

2014 Landsat image

nizina lake 2012

Google Earth image 2012


Davidson Glacier Retreat, Alaska

Davidson Glacier is a large glacier that flows east from the Chilkat Range to the foreland along Chilkat Inlet and Lynn Canal in southeast Alaska. As a result it has a long history of observation of change. Molnia (2008) noted that from 1889 to 1946 the glacier retreated 400 m and a lake had developed at the terminus. By 1978 the glacier had retreated another 700 m with the proglacial lake at the terminus further expanding. Molnia (2008) futher observed a 700 m retreat by 2004. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1993 to 2014 to identify recent changes of the glacier.

davidson map
USGS map

davidson ge
Google Earth Image

In 1984 the glacier terminated at the end of a peninsula extending from the south side of the proglacial lake, red arrow. The purple arrow is the snowline at 1100 m. The orange arrows indicate two tributaries feeding the main glacier. By 2001 the terminus has retreated 500 m into a narrower western section of the lake. In 2004 the snowline is at 1250 m, leaving little accumulation area. In 2009 the snowline is at 1200 m. The terminus has retreated from the proglacial lake. In 2013 the snowline is at 1100 m, there is a river connecting the terminus at the yellow arrow to the proglacial lake. The glacier no longer reaches the foreland having retreated into a mountain valley. In 2014 the snowline was at 1300 m at the start of August with a month left in the melt season. The two tributaries at the orange arrows only have a thin connection to the main glacier. The terminus has retreated 800 meters from 1984 to 2014. The retreat will continue due to the high snowlines in recent years and tributary separation. The retreat is less than most nearby glaciers such as Sinclair Glacier or Ferebee Glacier, just east across Lynn Canal.

Johnson et al (2013) compare changes in Davidson and Casement Glaciers that share a flow divide at 1200 m, Casement Glacier flows west and Davidson Glacier flows east. Both glaciers thinned at a rate of 1 m per year at the flow divide from 1995-2011. This is an indication of the high snowlines and negative glacier mass balance. Casement Glacier had a much greater thinning below 600m than Davidson Glacier, which leads to greater retreat. The difference is that Davidson Glacier has a steeper gradient from the terminus than most glaciers. davidson 1984
1984 Landsat image
davidson 2001
2001 Landsat image
davidson 2004
2004 Landsat image
daidson 2009
2009 Landsat image
davidson 2013
2013 Landsat image
davidson 2014
2014 Landsat image

Sinclair Glacier Retreat, Alaska

Sinclair Mountain is on the east side of the Lynn Canal in southeast Alaska. The mountains hosts too substantial glacier, the south flowing unnamed glacier is referred to here as Sinclair Glacier. This glacier terminated in a lake in the 1982 map of the Skagway region. I observed this glacier from the air in 1982 and it was ending in this lake. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1984 to 2014 to identify changes. sinclair map
USGS Skagway map
Sinclair ge
Google Earth Image

In 1984 the glacier ended at a prominent peninsula in the lake, red arrow in each image, the lake was 1700 m long. The snowline was at 950 m, indicated by the purple arrow, this was at the end of the melt season. The glacier was joined by two tributaries from the west side, orange arrows. In 1986 there is a small amount of terminus retreat visible. By 2001 the glacier has retreated out of the lake, which is 2.9 km long. By 2004 the southern tributary at the orange arrow is no longer connected to the glacier. The glacier has retreated 1.3 km from 1984-2004. The snowline is at 950 m with a month left in the melt season. In 2009 the image is not great quality, but the northern tributary is still connected to the main glacier by a thin tongue of ice at an icefall at 850 m. By 2013 the northern tributary is no longer connected to the main glacier, there is bare rock extending across the full width of the former icefall area. In 2014 the image is from the end of July and the snowline is already above 950 m. It is evident that the glacier will lose nearly all of its snowcover by the end of the melt season on October 10th. The glacier has retreated 900 meters since 2004, and 2.2 km since 1984. The recent loss of tributaries indicates less contribution of ice to the glacier and that retreat will continue. This retreat is the same as that of nearby Field Glacier, Meade Glacier and Ferebee Glacier.
sinclair 1984

1984 Landsat image
sinclair 1986
1986 Landsat image
sinclair 2001
2001 Landsat image
sinclair 2004
2004 Landsat image
sinclair 2009
2009 Landsat image
sinclair 2013
2013 Landsat image
sinclair 2014
2014 Landsat image

Sovereign Glacier Retreat, Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska

Sovereign Glacier is on the northeast side of the Talkeetna Mountains, Alaska and drains into the Talkeetna River. The Sovereign Glacier, red arrow, was joined by a tributary from the south in the map image, pink arrow. Molnia (2007) noted that all glaciers in the region have retreated since the early 1950’s when the area was mapped and that all the major termini were retreating and thinning in 2000. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1986 to 2014.
In 1986 the glacier terminates at the red arrow at the valley junction. The tributary to the south, pink arrow has separated from the main glacier and ends in a proglacial lake. In 1989 retreat is evident during the last three years with an expanding proglacial lake at the pink arrow, and the glacier terminus no longer reaching the valley junction, red arrow. By 2001 the glacier has retreated most of the distance from the red arrow at the 1986 terminus location to the yellow arrow, the 2014 terminus location. The former tributary glacier has receded from the proglacial lake. In 2009 there are two new outcrops of bedrock in the upper portion of the glacier indicating glacier thinning near the equilibrium line at 2000 m, at green arrow. By 2014 the main glacier has retreated 1100 m from the 1986 position, red arrow, to the yellow arrow. The tributary glacier at the pink arrow has retreated 400 m since 1986. The green arrow indicates further thinning of the upper glacier since 2009. The thinning upglacier indicates that retreat will continue. The retreat parallels that of nearby South Sheep River Glacier. This thinning in the upper glacier is similar to that of Lemon Creek Glacier as well (Pelto et al, 2013).
sovereign Glacier 1986
1986 Landsat image
sovereign Glacier 1989
1989 Landsat image

sovereign Glacier 2001
2001 Landsat image

sovereign Glacier 2009
2009 Landsat image

sovereign Glacier 2014
2014 Landsat image

South Sheep River Glacier Retreat, Alaska

South Sheep River Glacier is the informal name of the longest glacier in the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska. This glacier is the headwaters of the Sheep River and is comprised of two major glacier branches from the east and west meeting and turning north down the Sheep River valley. Molnia (2007) noted that all glaciers in the region have retreated since the early 1950’s when the area was mapped. Molnia (2007) noted that all the major termini were retreating and thinning in 2000. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1986 to 2014. In the early 1950’s the glacier extended 5.5 km north down the Sheep River Valley from the main glacier junction, red arrow.
sheep river glacier map
In each image the red arrow indicates the early 1950 terminus position, the yellow arrow the 1986 terminus and the pink arrow the 2014 terminus position. In 1986 the glacier had retreated 2.5 km from the 1950’s position. The terminus is at the mouth of the first significant glacier valley draining into the Sheep River from the west. The medial moraine extending to the terminus from the glacier junction is quite prominent. There is a small tributary at Point A that joins the eastern branch of the glacier. In 1989 the snowline on the glacier is at 1700 m. By 2001 the glacier has retreated substantially from the yellow arrow and side valley from the west. In 2009 the snowline is quite high at 2000 m. Th eastern tributary is quite thin beyond the junction, and adds little ice to the now short northward flowing segment. The late Sept. 2014 Landsat image is after a fall snowstorm and the snowline has lowered. The terminus is now at the pink arrow a 4.5 km retreat since the early 1950’s. The glacier has retreated 2 kilometers since 1986. The tributary at Point A now terminates 600 meters from the eastern branch. The glacier flows just 1 km north from the main junction versus 5.5 km in 1950. The terminus remains thin, and the narrow eastern tributary appears ready to separate from the west flowing tributary. This is not an imminent change, but is inevitable. The retreat is the same as that of nearby Sovereign Glacier and glaciers to the south, Pedersen Glacier and Fourpeaked Glacier
sheep river glacier 1986
1986 Landsat image

sheep river glacier 1989
1989 Landsat image

sheep river glacier 2001
2001 Landsat image

sheep river glacier 2009
2009 Landsat image

sheep river glacier 2014
2014 Landsat image

Ferebee Glacier Rapid Retreat, Alaska 1986-2014

Ferebee Glacier is in the Coast Range of Alaska 15 km northeast of Skagway. The Ferebee River that drains the glacier flows into the Chilkoot Inlet. The glacier begins at 1800 m in the Klukwah Mountains and flowed south and terminated on an outwash plain at 200 m in the USGS map of the region from 1955. Little change in the terminus occurred prior to 1981. I observed the glacier from the air in 1981 and there was no lake at the terminus and only a minor several hundred meter wide devegatated zone from recent retreat. Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1986-2014 to identify recent change. A landslide occurred onto Ferebee Glacier in 2014, that will add debris cover to the surface that is limited today.
ferebee glacier ge
Google Earth image

ferebee map
USGS map of area

In each image the red arrow marks the 1986 terminus, the yellow arrow the 2014 terminus and the purple dots the snowline. In 1986 the glacier still terminated on the outwash plain at the south end of what is a newly forming lake small pockets of open water are evident on the lateral margins. The snowline is at the base of the lower icefall at 900 m. By 1999 a lake has formed at the terminus, that is 1.2 km long, a retreat of nearly 100 meters per year. The snowline is at 1000 m in 1999. A 2004 Google Earth image of the terminus area indicates two regions of concentric crevassing upglacier of the terminus, one adjacent to the yellow arrow, this indicates ice that has been lifted and then dropped by water, which only happens if the ice is thin enough for flotation. By 2013 the lake has more than doubled in length and the snowline is near the top of a pair of icefalls at 1300 m. In 2014 the lake is 2.7 km long on the eastern shore and 2.5 km long on the western shore. The glacier has retreated 2.6 km in 28 years, still nearly 100 m/year. The lake is not becoming narrower and there is no elevation step on the glacier, to suggest the end of the developing lake is near. The snowline in 2014 even in early August is at 1400 m. This glacier will continue to retreat as long as the snowline is above the top of the icefalls at 1250 m. The retreat of this glacier is like the Meade Glacier across Chilkoot Inlet, LeBlondeau Glacier just to the west and Gilkey Glacier to the south.
ferebee glacier 1986
1986 Landsat image

ferebee glacier 1999
1999 Landsat image

ferebee ge terminus
2004 Google Earth image

ferebee glacier 2013a
2013 Landsat image

ferebee glacier 2014
2014 Landsat image