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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-230
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2018-230
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 08 Jan 2019

Research article | 08 Jan 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal The Cryosphere (TC) and is expected to appear here in due course.

Spatiotemporal Distributions of Icebergs in a Temperate Fjord: Columbia Fjord, Alaska

Sarah U. Neuhaus1, Slawek M. Tulaczyk1, and Carolyn Branecky Begeman1,2 Sarah U. Neuhaus et al.
  • 1Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, 95060, USA
  • 2Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, 87545, USA

Abstract. Fjord-terminating glaciers account for the majority of recent sea level rise. Inside fjords, icebergs may affect glacier-ocean interactions by cooling incoming ocean waters, enhancing vertical mixing, or by providing back stress on the terminus. However, relatively few studies have been performed on iceberg dynamics inside fjords, particularly outside of Greenland. We examine icebergs calved from Columbia Glacier, Alaska, over eight months spanning late winter to mid-fall using 0.5-meter resolution satellite imagery, identifying icebergs based on pixel brightness. Iceberg sizes fit a power-law distribution with an overall power-law exponent, m, of −1.26 ± 0.05. We find that iceberg calving rate, rather than water temperature, appears to be the major control on the exponent value. We also examine iceberg spatial distribution inside the fjord, and find that large icebergs (10,000 m2 − 100,000 m2 cross-sectional area) have low spatial correlation with icebergs of smaller sizes (correlation coefficients between 0.345 ± 0.132 and 0.490 ± 0.114, compared to 0.809 ± 0.052 − 0.989 ± 0.006 for the highly spatially-correlated smaller icebergs), due to their tendency to ground on the shallows. We estimate the surface area of icebergs in contact with incoming seawater to be 2.8 ± 0.58 × 104 m2. When compared with our estimated terminus surface area, 9.7 ± 3.7 × 105 m2, we expect iceberg impact on the heat content of the incoming seawater to be negligible in this fjord. Additionally, we find mechanical buttressing of the glacier to be negligible due to low iceberg density near the calving front and lack of winter sea ice in the fjord.

Sarah U. Neuhaus et al.
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Interactive discussion
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Status: closed
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Sarah U. Neuhaus et al.
Sarah U. Neuhaus et al.
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Short summary
Relatively few studies have been done on icebergs inside fjords, despite the fact that the majority of recent sea level rise has resulted from glaciers terminating in fjords. We examine the size and spatial distribution of icebergs in Columbia Fjord, Alaska to determine their influence on fjord dynamics and conclude that in such a warm fjord, the cooling effects of iceberg melt are negligible.
Relatively few studies have been done on icebergs inside fjords, despite the fact that the...
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