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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2017-135
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
Brief communication
04 Aug 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).
Brief Communication: The Khurdopin glacier surge revisited – extreme flow velocities and formation of a dammed lake in 2017
Jakob F. Steiner1, Philip D.A. Kraaijenbrink1, Sergiu G. Jiduc2, and Walter W. Immerzeel1 1Utrecht University, Department of Physical Geography, P.O. Box 80115, Utrecht, the Netherlands
2Imperial College London, Centre for Environmental Policy, Faculty of Natural Sciences, SW7 1NA, London, UK
Abstract. Glacier surges occur regularly in the Karakoram but the driving mechanisms, their frequency and its relation to a changing climate remain unclear. In this study we use digital elevation models and Landsat imagery in combination with high-resolution imagery from the Planet satellite constellation to quantify surface elevation changes and flow velocities during a glacier surge in of the Khurdopin glacier in 2017. Results reveal that an accumulation of ice mass above a clearly defined steep section of the glacier tongue since the last surge in 1999 eventually leads to a rapid surge in May 2017 peaking with velocities above 5000 m a−1, which is among the fastest rates globally for a mountain glacier. The time series of Landsat imagery reveals that velocities increase steadily during a four-year build-up phase prior to the actual surge and that the surge front advances towards the terminus after the peak has passed on the upper tongue. The surge frequency between the reported surges remains relatively constant at 18 (1999 to 2017) and 20 (1979 to 1999) years respectively. It is hypothesized that the surge is mainly initiated as a result of increased pressure melting caused by ice accumulation, i.e. the thermal switch hypothesis. However, surface observations show increased crevassing and disappearance of supra glacial ponds, which could have led to increased lubrication of the glacier bed. Finally, we observe that the surging glacier blocks the river in the valley and causes a lake to form, which may grow in subsequent years and could pose threats to downstream settlements and infrastructure in case of a sudden breach.

Citation: Steiner, J. F., Kraaijenbrink, P. D. A., Jiduc, S. G., and Immerzeel, W. W.: Brief Communication: The Khurdopin glacier surge revisited – extreme flow velocities and formation of a dammed lake in 2017, The Cryosphere Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2017-135, in review, 2017.
Jakob F. Steiner et al.
Jakob F. Steiner et al.
Jakob F. Steiner et al.

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Short summary
Glaciers that once every few years or decades suddenly advance in length – also knows as surging glaciers – are found in many glaciated regions in the world. In the Karakoram glacier tongues are additionally located at low altitudes and relatively close to human settlements. We investigate a very recent and extremely rapid surge in the region that has caused a lake to form in the main valley with possibly risks for downstream communities.
Glaciers that once every few years or decades suddenly advance in length – also knows as surging...
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