We describe the impact of three simultaneous earthquake-triggered rock avalanches on the dynamics of Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, by using spaceborne radar imagery and numerical modeling. We determined the velocities of the glacier before and after landslide deposition in 2002 by using a combination of ERS-1/ERS-2 tandem, RADARSAT-1, and ALOS PALSAR synthetic aperture radar data. Ice velocity above the debris-covered area of the glacier increased up to 14% after the earthquake but then decreased 20% by 2005. Within the area of the debris sheets, mean glacier surface velocity increased 44% within 2 years of the landslides. At the downglacier end of the lowest landslide, where strong differential ablation produced a steep ice cliff, velocities increased by 109% over the same period. By 2007, ice velocity throughout the debris area had become more uniform, consistent with a constant ice flux resulting from drastically reduced ablation at the base of the debris. Without further analysis, we cannot prove that these changes resulted from the landslides, because Black Rapids Glacier displays large seasonal and interannual variations in velocity. However, a full Stokes numerical ice flow model of a simplified glacier geometry produced a reversal of the velocity gradient from compressional to extensional flow after 5 years, which supports our interpretation that the recent changes in the velocity field of the glacier are related to landslide-induced mass balance changes.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Open Access Status
Shugar, Dan H.; Rabus, Bernhard T.; Clague, John J.; and Capps, Denny M., "The response of Black Rapids Glacier, Alaska, to the Denali earthquake rock avalanches" (2012). SIAS Faculty Publications. 337.