Thiel Glacier Alaska ongoing retreat

Thiel Glacier is a valley glacier in the Juneau icefield of Alaska. The glacier was a tributary of the Gilkey Glacier and is shown as such in USGS maps. From 1948-2005 the glacier has retreated 2100 meters from its former junction with the Gilkey Glacier. Below is the USGS map of the area showing the junction of the Battle, Gilkey and Thiel Glacier. The same view from the 2005 Google Earth imagery indicates the separation of the three glaciers and the emergence of a new deglaciated valley section. In 1984 looking down at the glacier from its highest elevation, it was clear that the glacier had too small of an accumulation area to support the long, low elevation valley tongue of the glacier. From that vantage I could not see the terminus. The snowline at the end of the summer typically is at 4000-4500 feet at the end of the melt season, leaving only 45% of the glacier in the accumulation zone. For a glacier to be in equilibrium at least 60% of the glacier needs to be in the accumulation zone. The upper margin of the glacier is outlined in blue and the snowline indicated with blue arrows in the image below. The current glacier terminus is stagnant and the retreat is ongoing. At the terminus a close examination of the 2005 imagery forth indicates a series of concentric crevasses at the terminus. Such crevasses typically are the indicative of a collapse feature. Usually it is a subglacial lake that drains that had supported the terminus to some extent. Above this point the ice is stagnant lacking tranverse crevasses that would indicate movement. The surface of the glacier has a rough cross profile as a result without active movement to even out the profile. Areas of debris generally are prominent as the debris is insulating the ice underneath. The 2005 terminus is at 650 feet, compared to the same location in the USGS maps of 1500 feet. This nearly 900 feet of thinning is depicted by the surface wall overlay added to Google Earth, the top of this wall is at 1500 feet. In the foreground is the Gilkey Glacier which the Thiel formerly joined and the new deglaciated valley. This glacier will continue to retreat rapidly with the current climate much like the nearby Hoboe Glacier and Tulsequah Glacier and Lemon Glacier


Brady Glacier, Alaska begins a substantial retreat

Brady Glacier is a large glacier at the south end of the Glacier Bay region, Alaska. When first seen by George Vancouver it was a calving tidewater glacier in 1794 filling Taylor Bay with ice. Brady Glacier ceased calving and advanced approximately 8 km during the 19th century (Klotz, 1899). As Bengston (1962) notes, the advance is likely another example of an advance following a change from tidal to non-tidal status rather than that of a more positive mass balance. Bengston (1962) further notes that the massive outwash plain at the terminus is primarily responsible for Brady glacier maintaining itself well other glaciers in the Glacier Bay region retreat. The ELA on this glacier is 800 m, the line above which snow persists even at the end of the average summer, this is one of the lowest in Alaska. The main terminus was still advancing in the 1960’s and 1970’s and has managed a 250-300 meter advance since the USGS map of the 1950’s. The main terminus is not advancing any longer and has begun to retreat, the retreat to date is less than 200 meters. The image below is the 1950’s map of the glacier. Brady Glacier is a complex glacier with many subsidiary termini. Echelmeyer, Arendt, Larsen and Harrison from the University of Alaska noted a thinning rate in the mid 1900’s of about 1 meter per year on the Brady Glacier complex. A comparison of 1950’s USGS maps and 2004-2006 satellite imagery indicate all six main subsidiary termini are retreating. The retreat ranges from 200 m in Abyss Lake, 200 m in Trick Lake to 1200 meters in North Deception Lake. The image below is the 2006 satellite image. Compare to the map, Deception has increased in size several fold. North Trick and South Trick Lake are now joined, Trick Lake. Of further interest is the stream draining Trick Lake that sneaks down the west margin of the glacier. This has enabled the water level in the glacier dammed Trick Lake to decline. Note the brown grey “Bath Ring” so to speak above the lake level. The outlet has also been marked in the image below. Pelto (1987) noted that the percentage of the glacier in the accumulation zone was right at the threshold for equilibrium. Subsequent warming of the climate in southeast Alaska and reduced glacier mass balance in the region has initiated this retreat.These termini are all closer to the equilibrium and would respond first to changes in mass balance due to recent warming and consequent measured thinning. This entire line of reasoning must be explored. The glacier is thinning substantially and would appear to be poised for a substantial retreat of the main termini, not just the subsidiary termini.
References not linked:
Bengston, K. recent behavior of Brady Glacier, Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska. IAHS, 58, 59-77.
Klotz O. 1899: Notes on glaciers of southeast Alaska and adjoining territories. Journal of Geography, 14, 523-534.
Pelto, M. 1987. Mass balance of southeast Alaska and northwest British Columbia glaciers from 1976 to 1984: Methods and Results”. Annals of Glaciology 9: 189–193.