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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 Apr 2019

Research article | 17 Apr 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

The Impact of Climate on Surging at Donjek Glacier, Yukon, Canada

William Kochtitzky1,2, Dominic Winski1,2, Erin McConnel1,2, Karl Kreutz1,2, Seth Campbell1,2, Ellyn M. Enderlin1,2,3, Luke Copland4, Scott Williamson4, Brittany Main4, Christine Dow5, and Hester Jiskoot6 William Kochtitzky et al.
  • 1School of Earth and Climate Sciences, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, USA
  • 2Climate Change Institute, University of Maine, Orono, Maine, USA
  • 3Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA
  • 4Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada
  • 5Department of Geography and Environmental Management, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, ON, Canada
  • 6Department of Geography, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, AB, Canada

Abstract. Links between climate and glacier surges are not well understood, but are required to enable prediction of glacier surges and mitigation of associated hazards. Here, we investigate the role of snow accumulation and temperature on surge periodicity, glacier area changes, and timing of surge initiation since the 1930s for Donjek Glacier, Yukon, Canada. Snow accumulation measured in three ice cores collected at Eclipse Icefield, at the head of the glacier, indicate that a cumulative accumulation of 13.1–17.7 m w.e. of snow occurred in the 10–12 years between each of its last eight surges. This suggests that a cumulative accumulation threshold must be passed before the initiation of a surge event, although it remains unclear whether the relationship between cumulative snowfall and surging is due to the consistency in repeat surge interval and decadal average precipitation, or if it is indeed a prerequisite to surging. We also examined the 1968 to 2017 climate record from Burwash Landing, 30 km from the glacier, to determine whether a relationship exists between surge periodicity and an increase of 2.5 °C in mean annual air temperature over this period. No such relationship was found, although each of the past 8 surge events has been less extensive than the previous, with the terminus area approximately 7.96 km2 smaller after the 2012–2014 surge event compared to the ~ 1947 surge event. This study shows that the impacts of climate and surging is not yet understood and suggests that internal glacier processes may play a more important role in controlling glacier surge events.

William Kochtitzky et al.
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William Kochtitzky et al.
William Kochtitzky et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Donjek Glacier has experienced eight instability events since 1935. Here we use a suite of weather and satellite data to understand the impacts of climate on instability events. We find that while there has been a consistent amount of snow fall between instability events, the relationship between the two is unclear as they are both very consistent on decade timescales. We show that we need further glacier observations to understand why these glaciers become unstable.
Donjek Glacier has experienced eight instability events since 1935. Here we use a suite of...