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The SFU Glaciology Group leads and collaborates on research to better understand various aspects of the terrestrial cryosphere. Below are some of our recent and ongoing research projects, along with related publications.

Arctic glacier mass balance and dynamics

Glaciers in the Canadian Arctic are expected to lead glaciers and ice caps worldwide in 21st century contributions to sea level. We are studying the processes involved in Arctic glacier change, from surface mass balance to ice-ocean interactions to the evolving influence of basal processes.

Related publications:

Pimentel, S., G.E. Flowers, M.J. Sharp, B. Danielson, L. Copland, W. Van Wychen, A. Duncan, J.L. Kavanaugh. 2017. Modelling seasonal dynamics of a major marine-terminating Arctic glacier. Annals of Glaciology, doi:10.1017/aog.2017.23.

Gilbert, A., G.E. Flowers, G.H. Miller, K. Refsnider, N.E. Young, V. Radic. 2017. The projected demise of Barnes Ice Cap: evidence of an unusually warm 21st century Arctic. Geophysical Research Letters, 44, doi:10.1002/2016GL072394, 2810-2816.

Gilbert, A., Flowers, G.E., Miller, G.H., Rabus, B.T., Van Wychen, W., Gardner, A.S., Copland, L. 2016. Sensitivity of Barnes Ice Cap, Baffin Island, Canada, to climate state and internal dynamics. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 121, doi:10.1002/2016JF003839, 1516-1539.

Joughin, I., S.B. Das, G.E. Flowers, M.D. Behn, R.B. Alley, M.A. King, B.E. Smith, J. Bamber, M.R. van den Broeke, J.H. van Angelen. 2013. Influence of supraglacial lakes and ice-sheet geometry on seasonal ice-flow variability. The Cryosphere, 7, doi:10.5194/tc-7-1185-2013, 1185-1192.

Optimal design and uncertainty quantification in measuring and modelling glacier mass balance

In collaboration with colleagues from SFU Statistics, we are applying principles of experimental design to optimize the sampling schemes used to measure in-situ glacier mass balance and to rigourously quantify related uncertainties. These techniques are being applied to real data from our study sites in the St. Elias Mountains of Yukon.

Related publications:

Pulwicki, A., G.E. Flowers. Submitted. Optimal snow-survey design for the estimation of winter balance on alpine glaciers. Hydrological Processes.

Pulwicki, A., G.E. Flowers, V. Radic. Submitted. Uncertainties in estimating winter balance from direct measurements of snow depth and density on alpine glaciers. Journal of Glaciology.

Pratola, M.T., O. Harari, D. Bingham, J. Parkhouse, G.E. Flowers. 2017. Design on non-convex regions: optimal experiments for spatial process prediction, Technometrics, 59(1), doi:10.1080/00401706.2015.1115674, 36-47.

Surjanovic, S. 2016. Using computer model uncertainty to inform the design of physical experiments: An application in glaciology. Master's thesis, Simon Fraser University.

Initiation and dynamics of glacier outburst floods

Outburst floods from ice-dammed lakes represent one of the most important glaciological hazards. We are using a suite of ground-based geophysical measurements, including a novel stationary ice-penetrating radar system, to understand the annual outburst flood cycle of a lake dammed by the Kaskawulsh Glacier. We are collaborating with colleagues from UBC-EOAS as well as others to understand the hydrology of the surrounding area.

Related publications:

Aso, N., V. Tsai, C. Schoof, G. Flowers, A. Whiteford, C. Rada. 2017. Seismologically observed spatio-temporal drainage activity at moulins. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 122, doi:10.1002/2017JB014578.

Pimentel, S. and G.E. Flowers. 2011. A numerical study of hydrologically driven glacier dynamics and subglacial flooding. Proceedings of the Royal Society A., 467, 537-558, doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0211.

Flowers, G.E., H. Björnsson, F. Pálsson and G.K.C. Clarke. 2004. A coupled sheet-conduit mechanism for jökulhlaup propagation. Geophysical Research Letters, 31 L05401, doi:10.1029/2003GL019088.

Modelling the hydrology of glaciers and ice sheets

Basal hydrology plays a fundamental role in glacier and ice-sheet dynamics. We are contributing to the growing need for numerical models of glacier drainage that capture process-scale phenomena but can ultimately be adapted to large-scale ice-flow models.

Related publications:

King, L., Hassan, M., Yang, K., Flowers, G. 2016. Flow routing for delineating supraglacial meltwater channel networks. Remote Sensing, 8(12), doi:10.3390/rs8120988, 988.

Flowers, G.E. 2015. Modelling water flow under glaciers and ice sheets. Proceedings of the Royal Society A 471: 20140907, doi:10.1098/rspa.2014.0907.

Schoof, C.G., C.A. Rada, N.J. Wilson, G.E. Flowers, M. Haseloff. 2014. Oscillatory subglacial drainage in the absence of surface melt. The Cryosphere, 8, do:10.5194/tc-8-959-2014, 959-976.

Werder, M.A., I. Hewitt, C.G. Schoof, G.E. Flowers. 2013. Modeling channelized and distributed subglacial drainage in two dimensions. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 118, doi:10.1002/jgrf.20146, 2140-2158.

Pimentel, S. and G.E. Flowers. 2011. A numerical study of hydrologically driven glacier dynamics and subglacial flooding. Proceedings of the Royal Society A., 467, doi:10.1098/rspa.2010.0211, 537-558.

Pimentel, S., G.E. Flowers and C.G. Schoof. 2010. A hydrologically coupled higher-order flow-band model of ice dynamics with a Coulomb friction sliding law. Journal of Geophysical Research 115, doi:10.1029/2009JF001621, F04023.

Glacier surging and basal processes

Glacier surging represents an unforced mode of fast-flow whose fundamental underpinnings are still not well understood. We are investigating the geologic controls on glacier dynamics and the basal processes that give rise to fast flow.

Related publications:

Flowers, G.E., A.H. Jarosch, P.T.A.P. Belliveau, L.A. Fuhrman. 2016. Short-term velocity variations and sliding sensitivity of a slowly surging glacier. Annals of Glaciology, 57(72), doi:10.1017/aog.2016.7, 71-83.

Crompton, J.W. and G.E. Flowers. 2016. Correlations of suspended sediment size with bedrock lithology and glacier dynamics. Annals of Glaciology, 57(72), doi:10.1017/aog.2016.6, 142-150.

Crompton, J.W., G.E. Flowers, D. Kirste, B. Hagedorn, M.J. Sharp, 2015. Clay mineral precipitation and low silica in glacier meltwaters explored through reaction path modelling. Journal of Glaciology, 61(230), doi:10.3189/2015JoG15J051, 1061-1078.

Wilson, N.J., G.E. Flowers, L. Mingo. 2014. Mapping and interpretation of bed reflection power from a surge-type polythermal glacier. Annals of Glaciology, 55(67), doi:10.3189/2014AoG67A101, 1-8.

Flowers, G.E., N. Roux, S. Pimentel, C. Schoof. 2011. Present dynamics and future prognosis of a slowly surging glacier. The Cryosphere, 5, doi:10.5194/tc-5-299-2011, 299-313.

De Paoli, L. and G.E. Flowers. 2009. Dynamics of a small surge-type glacier investigated using one-dimensional geophysical inversion. Journal of Glaciology, 55(194), doi:10.3189/002214309790794850, 1101-1112.

Modelling glacial erosion

Glaciers do work on the landscape with tools embedded in basal ice and sediment conveyed in subglacial water. We are developing new physically-based models to describe glacial erosion processes that help explain the conditions required to create the landforms glaciers leave behind.

Related publications:

Beaud, F.B., J.G Venditti, M. Koppes, G.E. Flowers, Submitted. Excavation of subglacial bedrock channels by seasonal meltwater flow. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

Beaud, F.B., G.E. Flowers, J.G Venditti. 2016. Efficacy of bedrock erosion by subglacial water flow. Earth Surface Dynamics, 4, doi:10.5194/esurf-4-125-2016, 125-145.

Beaud, F.B., G.E. Flowers, S. Pimentel. 2014. Seasonal-scale abrasion and quarrying patterns from a two-dimensional ice-flow model coupled to distributed and channelized subglacial drainage. Geomorphology, 219, doi:10.1016/j.geomorph.2014.04.036, 176-191.

Glacier thermal structure and evolution

Glaciers respond to climate by adjusting their geometry, dynamics and thermal architecture. We are using ice-penetrating radar and borehole temperature measurements to map the structure of polythermal glaciers. Thermo-mechanical models enable us to attribute the mapped structures to specific processes and project the evolution of glacier thermal structure into the future.

Related publications:

Wilson, N.J., G.E. Flowers, L. Mingo. 2014. Mapping and interpretation of bed reflection power from a surge-type polythermal glacier. Annals of Glaciology, 55(67), doi:10.3189/2014AoG67A101, 1-8.

Wilson, N.J., G.E. Flowers, L. Mingo. 2013. Comparison of thermal structure and evolution between neighboring subarctic glaciers. Journal of Geophysical Research - Earth Surface, 118, doi:10.1002/jgrf.20096, 1443-1459.

Wilson, N.J. and G.E. Flowers. 2013. Environmental controls on the thermal structure of alpine glaciers. The Cryosphere, 7, doi:10.5194/tc-7-167-2013, 167-182.

Mingo, L. and G.E. Flowers. 2010. Instruments and Methods: An integrated lightweight ice-penetrating radar system. Journal of Glaciology, 56(198), do:10.3189/002214310793146179, 709-714.

Glacier-climate interactions

The fate of many glaciers and ice caps is tied to processes occurring at the ice - atmosphere interface. We use field data combined with models of varying complexity to understand surface mass- and energy exchange, with an emphasis on model fidelity to observations and transferability in space and time.

Related publications:

Wheler, B.A., MacDougall, A.H., Flowers, G.E., Petersen, E.I., Whitfield, P.H., Kohfeld, K.E. 2014. Effects of temperature forcing provenance and lapse rate on the performance of an empirical glacier-melt model. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 46(2), do:10.1657/1938-4246-46.2.379, 379-393.

Williamson, S.N., D.S. Hik, J.A. Gamon, J.L. Kavanaugh, G.E. Flowers. 2014. Estimating mean surface air temperature from MODIS Land Surface Temperature observations in a sub-Arctic alpine environment. Remote Sensing, 6(2), 946-963, doi:10.3390/rs6020946.

MacDougall, A.H., B.A. Wheler and G.E. Flowers. 2011. A preliminary assessment of glacier melt-model parameter sensitivity and transferability in a dry subarctic environment. The Cryosphere, 5, doi: 10.5194/tc-5-1011-2011, 1011-1028.

MacDougall, A.H. and G.E. Flowers. 2011. Spatial and temporal transferability of a distributed energy-balance glacier melt-model. Journal of Climate, 24(5), doi:10.1175/2010JCLI3821.1, 1480-1498.

Wheler, B.A. and G.E. Flowers. 2011. Glacier subsurface heat-flux characterizations for energy balance modelling in the Donjek Range, southwest Yukon Territory, Canada. Journal of Glaciology 57(201), do:10.3189/002214311795306709, 121-133.