Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-96
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2021-96

  22 Apr 2021

22 Apr 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Generalized sliding law applied to the surge dynamics of Shisper Glacier and constrained by timeseries correlation of optical satellite images

Flavien Beaud1,a, Saif Aati1, Ian Delaney2,b, Surendra Adhikari2, and Jean-Philippe Avouac1 Flavien Beaud et al.
  • 1Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • 2Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, USA
  • anow at: Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, CA
  • bnow at: Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland

Abstract. Understanding fast ice flow is key to assess the future of glaciers. Fast ice flow is controlled by sliding at the bed, yet that sliding is poorly understood. A growing number of studies show that the relationship between sliding and basal shear stress transitions from an initially rate-strengthening behavior to a rate-independent or rate-weakening behavior. Studies that have tested a glacier sliding law with data remain rare. Surging glaciers, as we show in this study, can be used as a natural laboratory to inform sliding laws because a single glacier shows extreme velocity variations at a sub-annual timescale. The present study has two parts: (1) we introduce a new workflow to produce velocity maps with a high spatio-temporal resolution from remote sensing data combining Sentinel-2 and Landsat 8 and use the results to describe the recent surge of Shisper glacier, and (2) we present a generalized sliding law and provide a first-order assessment of the sliding-law parameters using the remote sensing dataset. The quality and spatio-temporal resolution of the velocity timeseries allow us to identify a gradual amplification of spring speed-up velocities in the two years leading up to the surge that started by the end of 2017. We also find that surface velocity patterns during the surge can be decomposed in three main phases, and each phase appears to be associated with hydraulic changes. Using this dataset, we are able to constrain the sliding law parameter range necessary to encompass the sliding behavior of Shisper glacier, before and during the surge. We document a transition from rate-strengthening to rate-independent or rate-weakening behavior. A range of parameters is probably necessary to describe sliding at a single glacier. The approach used in this study could be applied to many other sites in order to better constrain glacier sliding in various climatic and geographic settings.

Flavien Beaud et al.

Status: open (until 17 Jun 2021)

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Flavien Beaud et al.

Flavien Beaud et al.

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Short summary
Understanding sliding at the bed of glaciers is essential to understand the future of sea-level rise and glacier-related hazards. Yet, there is currently no universal law to describe this mechanism. We propose a universal glacier sliding law and a method to constrain it. We use satellite remote sensing to create velocity maps over 6 years at Shisper glacier, Pakistan, including its recent surge. The universal law can encompass the data, although a range of parameters is necessary.