Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2013

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Weirich, Frank

First Committee Member

Bettis, Elmer A., III

Second Committee Member

Campbell, David L.

Third Committee Member

Dorale, Jeffrey A.

Fourth Committee Member

Bennett, David A.


Concerns regarding the issue of climate change and, in particular, the rapid retreat of glaciers around the world, have placed great importance on glacial monitoring. Some of the methods most commonly used to observe glacial change--direct mass balance measurements and remote sensing--provide valuable information about glacier change. However, these methods do not address the englacial and subglacial environments.

Surface meltwater that enters englacial and subglacial hydrological networks can contribute to acceleration of ice flow, increased calving on marine-terminating glaciers, surges or outburst floods, and greater overall ablation rates. Because subsurface drainage systems often freeze during the winter and re-form each summer, examining the seasonal evolution of these networks is crucial for assessing the impact that internal drainage may have on the behavior of a glacier each year.

The goal of this study is to determine the role englacial and subglacial drainage system evolution plays in influencing summer ablation and discharge at the terminus of Exit Glacier, a small valley glacier located in South-central Alaska. During the summers of 2010 and 2011, we used ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to locate internal drainage features on the lower 100 meters of the glacier. GPR surveys were conducted in June and August of each year in an effort to observe the evolution of the drainage systems over the course of an ablation season. Three antenna frequencies--250, 500, and 800 MHz--were used on a dual frequency GPR so that various resolutions and depths in the ice could be viewed simultaneously.

Stream monitoring was conducted to document discharge in the proglacial stream throughout the 2011 season. These data were compared with weather records to differentiate noticeable meltwater releases from precipitation events. Additionally, morphological changes in the glacier were observed through photographic documentation.

Throughout the observation period, significant subglacial tunnels appeared, followed by the collapse of terminal ice above the tunnels. This phenomenon was most noticeable in 2011. These observations indicate that the internal drainage systems near the terminus of Exit Glacier became very well-developed each summer, and contributed approximately 75 meters of ice loss between June, 2010 and August, 2011.


discharge, englacial, glacier, GPR, seasonal, subglacial


xiv, 152 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 145-152).


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Copyright 2013 Susan M. Kilgore

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