*Images from US Geological Survey Remote Web Cam.
To monitor glacier activity and potential lake formation, United States Geological Survey and National Park Service in cooperation with British Columbia Parks and University of Alaska Fairbanks, installed a timelapse camera to monitor the terminus geometry on August 22nd 2008. The camera transmits two images daily that help us monitor the surge, and evaluate downstream hazards.
The camera is pointed at what appeared to be the most active portion of the terminus at the time of the visit, although the minimum closure gap is just out of the frame to the left (downstream). From these images, we can determine if the glacier is thickening and advancing, and see any lake formation. The portion of the terminus that is thickening and advancing exceeds the capability of the camera. The overview shot above shows that a majority of the width of the glacier has advanced into the river, giving the current surge a higher probability of blocking the river.
On October 22nd, 2008, a severe storm settled in over Tweedsmuir Glacier, as noted by the snow and ice blocking the view of the glacier. During this event, it is believed that severe winds were responsible for turning the camera away from the glacier and the river, leaving it to point at the rock face on the side opposite of the glacier. Weather and logistics finally intersected agreeably on November 30th, 2008 when Panya Lipovsky, Steve Israel and Jeff Conaway were able to helicopter in, dig the equipment out of the deep snow, and add reinforcement to the camera tower so that it would be more likely to resist such conditions in the future. As you can see, the camera is very nearly pointed back to its original view, allowing for comparisons of what the glacier is doing through time.
Bad weather was again blamed for the current lack of imagery since December 27th, 2008. A large storm was reported in the area, dumping several feet of snow in the Tweedsmuir Glacier/Alsek River/Remote Camera vicinity. Scientists believe that the extreme amount of snow has probably covered the solar panels that supplied power batteries that in turn powered the cameras (that are buried below the solar panels). It is hoped that winds and shifting snow drifts will eventually expose the solar panels and cameras so that satellite uplinks may be established and new images will be added to the current library of photos.
More information is also available about the surge at the following phone numbers and locations:
National Weather Service Tweedsmuir Glacier Information
The Tweedsmuir Hotline (maintained by the NPS) at 907-697-2695
USGS Real-Time Water Data for USGS 15129000 ALSEK R NR YAKUTAT AK
or by contacting USGS glaciology:
907 786 7088