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Byrd Glacier Flow Dynamics

Byrd Glacier is one of the largest and fastest-flowing glaciers in Antarctica. Only recently did we realize that it can undergo short-lived, but significant changes in flow speed in response to the draining of two large subglacial lakes located in its catchment. The purpose of this (now expired) NSF-funded project was to understand the flow dynamics of large, fast-moving outlet glaciers that drain the East Antarctic Ice Sheet by means of an integrated field, remote sensing, and modeling study of Byrd Glacier.

Between 2010 and 2013, we deployed a dense network of GPS instruments over the two subglacial lakes, and on the grounded trunk and floating portions of the glacier. Our results show a close relationship between subglacial hydrologic pathways between the two lakes. Our modeling results show that when the two lakes drained (between December 2005 and February 2007), the partitioning of flow resistance did not change, suggesting the increase in velocity was caused by a temporary decrease in basal effective pressure.

This was an NSF-funded project, "Collaborative Research: Byrd Glacier Flow Dynamics" with:

  • Gordon S. Hamilton, University of Maine
  • Leigh A. Stearns, University of Kansas
  • C.J. van der Veen, University of Kansas

Byrd Glacier Papers and Presentations

Papers:

  1. Van der Veen, C. J., L. A. Stearns, J. V. Johnson and B. Csatho. 2014. Flow dynamics of Byrd Glacier, East Antarctica. Journal of Glaciology, doi: 10.3189/2014JoG14J052.
  2. Stearns, L. A. 2011. Mass balance of four East Antarctic outlet glaciers. Annals of Glaciology, 41, 71 – 76.
  3. Stearns, L. A., B. L. Smith and G. S. Hamilton. 2008. Subglacial floods cause rapid increase in flow speed of a major East Antarctic outlet glacier. Nature Geoscience, doi:10.1038/ngeo0356.
  4. Stearns, L. A. and G. S. Hamilton. 2005. A new velocity map for Byrd Glacier, East Antarctica, derived from high-resolution satellite imagery. Annals of Glaciology, 41, 71 – 76.

Presentations:

  1. Child, S., L. A. Stearns, and C. J. van der Veen. An exploratory investigation of basal crevasses on Byrd Glacier, East Antarctica. International Glaciological Society meeting on the Hydrology of Glaciers and Ice Sheets, Hofn, Iceland, June 2015.
  2. Byers, L. C., L. A. Stearns, and C. J. van der Veen. Crevasse patterns in the catchment of Byrd Glacier, East Antarctica. International Glaciological Society meeting: Radioglaciology. Lawrence, KS, September, 2013.
  3. Byers, L. C., L. A. Stearns, and C. J. van der Veen. Crevasses forming in glazed surfaces across East Antarctica. West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) meeting. Sterling, V., October 2013.
  4. Child, S., L. A. Stearns, C. J. van der Veen, and S. Rezvanbehbahani. Investigating the effect of subglacial lakes on the force balance of Byrd Glacier. West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) meeting. Sterling, VA, October, 2013.
  5. Stearns, L. A., G. S. Hamilton, and C. J. van der Veen. Byrd Glacier flow dynamics. West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) meeting. Sterling, VA, October, 2013.
  6. Child, S. F. and others. The relationship between ice velocity and bed topography on Byrd Glacier, Antarctica. Eos. Trans. AGU, 93, Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C31A-0581, San Francisco, CA, December 2012.
  7. Stearns, L. A. Subglacial drainage events under outlet glacier end-members: Byrd Glacier and Whillans Ice Stream. AGU Chapman Conference, Baltimore, MD, March 2010.
  8. Stearns, L. A. and G. S. Hamilton. Mass balance of the Ross Sea sector of East Antarctica. International Polar Year Oslo Science Conference, Oslo, Norway, June 2010.
  9. Stearns, L. A. Flow dynamics and mass balance estimates of four large East Antarctic outlet glaciers. IGS meeting: International Symposium on Earth’s Disappearing Ice: Drivers, Responses and Impacts, Columbus, OH, August 2010.
  10. Stearns, L. A., B. L. Smith, and G. S. Hamilton. Subglacial lake outburst floods and Antarctic ice dynamics, Eos. Trans. AGU, 90(52), Fall Meet. Suppl., Abstract C34A-08, San Francisco, CA, December 2009.

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