Glacier and ice-sheet dynamics, the hydrology of glacierized systems, and the relationship of these systems to climate
Current Research Projects - G. Flowers
Recent projects include (1) field-based exploration of the relationship between glacier-flow instabilities and bedrock geologic properties, (2) geophysical investigation of ice-shelf/glacier-lake dynamics through an outburst flood cycle and (3) quantification of snow distribution across glaciers.
(1) Fast glacier flow and bedrock geology. We have been working on the longstanding and unsolved question of how the geologic substrate is related to glacier surging. In an extensive and multidisciplinary field-based study, we examined everything from subglacial chemical weathering to proglacial suspended sediment properties to the grain-scale mineralogy of crushed rock and glacial sediment. We found a stunning correlation between bedrock fracture characteristics and surge propensity, prompting a new hypothesis to explain the local distribution of surge-type glaciers.
(2) Unstable ice-dammed lakes. Outburst floods from glacier-dammed lakes pose a threat to downstream ecosystems, infrastructure and communities. To better understand the interaction between glaciers and freshwater reservoirs, we undertook a process-based study of the largest annually recurring ice-dammed lake in our Yukon study area. Meteorological, hydrological and geophysical data collected over the course of an annual lake filling and drainage cycle revealed that most water is stored in or under the glacier (rather than in the visible lake) and that the lake and ice dam interact in ways that are absent in standard models. This project also facilitated the development of a novel radar system to monitor englacial/subglacial properties.
(3) Measuring and modelling snowfall across glaciers. Glaciers rely on the seasonal accumulation of snow to offset mass lost through summer melt, yet accumulation is notoriously difficult to quantify due to its spatial heterogeneity. Using over 9000 field measurements of snow depth and density, we have investigated key sources of uncertainty in accumulation measurements and analysis and tested different experimental design for snow surveys.