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Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Image of Columbia Glacier in 1938, click for larger version.
Columbia Glacier in 1938 (photograph by Brad Washburn).

Image of Columbia Glacier from Google Earth from about 2000.
Similar view of Columbia Glacier as seen with Google Earth (If you have Google Earth, load this view here).

Introduction

Columbia Glacier is a large (1,100 square kilometers), multi-branched calving glacier in south central Alaska that flows mostly south out of the Chugach Mountains to its tidewater termination in Prince William Sound. Prior to 1980, it had a long history of stability, with a length of 66 kilometers (41 miles), and small, short-lived advances or retreats. From 195774, the lower ablation area maintained its altitude within a few meters, which suggests that the glacier was in climatic equilibrium for at least 2 decades. During the early part of the 1980 decade, it began a rapid retreat.  By 1995, it was only about 57 kilometers long and by late 2000, about 54 kilometers long with no indication that the retreat would stop soon. Though perhaps triggered by climate fluctuations, this major glacier retreat once initiated, has progressed due to the nature of the calving glacier cycle with little concern for the climate.

Online Reports

Krimmel, R.M., 1996, Columbia Glacier, Alaska Research on Tidewater Glaciers: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 091-96, 4 p. [Abstract and full report]

Krimmel, R.M., 2001, Photogrammetric Data Set, 1957-2000 and Bathymetric Measurements for Columbia Glacier, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 01-4089, 46 p. [Abstract, full report, and data files from CD]

Molnia, B.F., 2008, Glaciers of North America -- Glaciers of Alaska, in Williams, R.S., Jr., and Ferrigno, J.G., eds., Satellite image atlas of glaciers of the world: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1386-K, 525 p. [Description and full report]

Post, A., O'Neel, S., Motyka, R., and Streveler, G, 2011, A complex relationship between calving glaciers and climate, EOS Transactions, American Geophysical Union, V. 92, No. 37, p. 305-6. [Report]

Trabant, D.C. and Krimmel, R.M., 1997, Measurement of snow accumulation since August 1992 on Columbia Glacier, Alaska, in Arctic Science and Resource Management: Exploring the Issues, Arctic Division Science Conference, Programs and Abstracts, AAAS Arctic Division. [Abstract]

Numerous online USGS reports on Columbia Glacier can be obtained through the USGS Publications Warehouse. This link automatically searches the database for "Columbia Glacier" and returns the result, about 30 papers.

Photos and Maps

Map of Columbia Glacier, click for enlargement. Columbia Glacier, Alaska from WRIR 01-4089.
[Broad arrows show approximate direction of flow, numerals near solid circles (L points) indicate the distance from head of glacier along the centerline, in kilometers.] Click map or here for enlargement
1899 Harriman Expedition:

Columbia Glacier, 1899. By Gilbert Thompson. Source: National Archives. Click map or here for enlargement. (Link to PBS's Harriman Expedition historic maps)

1899 map of Columbia Glacier. Click for enlargement.

Links

INSTAAR Glaciology Group
     Columbia Glacier Kinematics and Dynamics
     Photos of Columbia Glacier

NSIDC Photo Collection Search (lots of old photos from 1899 to 1969) (hint, search by name Columbia)

Tarr, R.S. and Martin, L., 1914, Alaskan Glacier Studies of the National Geographic Society in the Yakutat Bay, Prince William Sound and Lower Copper River Regions, The National Geographic Society, 498 p. [Full book in pdf or through Google Books]

 

Maintainer: Rod March
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Last update: Monday, October 03, 2011 03:38 PM
URL: http://ak.water.usgs.gov/glaciology/columbia/