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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

Jamieson, S.S.R., Ewertowski, M.W. & Evans, D.J.A. Rapid advance of two mountain glaciers in response to mine-related debris loading. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface. 2015;120:1418-1435.

Author(s) from Durham


Rapid glacier advance is known to occur by a range of mechanisms. However, although large-scale debris loading has been proposed as a process for causing rapid terminus advance, it has rarely been observed. We use satellite remote-sensing data to observe accelerated glacier terminus advance in response to massive supraglacial loading on two glaciers in Kyrgyzstan. Over a 15 year period, mining activity has led to the dumping of spoil of up to 180 m thick on large parts of these valley glaciers. We find that the termini of these glaciers advance by 1.2 and 3.2 km respectively at a rate of up to 350 m yr−1. Our analysis suggests that although enhanced basal sliding could be an important process, massive supraglacial loads have also caused enhanced internal ice deformation that would account for most, or all, of the glacier terminus advance. In addition, narrowing of the glacier valley and mining and dumping of ice alter the mass balance and flow regime of the glaciers. Although the scale of supraglacial loading is massive, this full-scale experiment provides insight into glacier flow acceleration response where small valley glaciers are impacted by very large volumes of landslide debris.

Department of Geography