June 11, 2014
Shakes Glacier Retreat-Tributary Separation, Alaska
Posted by Mauri Pelto
Shakes Glacier drains the southern portion of the Stikine Icefield and terminates in Shakes Lake. It is between the more famous LeConte Glacier to the west and Great Glacier to the east. Larsen et al (2007) indicate recent thinning of 2-4 meters per year on the glaciers along the southern margin of the Stikine Icefield. Here we utilize 1985-2013 Landsat imagery to examine changes in this glacier.
The USGS map of Shakes Glacier indicates the glacier turning the corner south along Shakes Lake. In each image the red arrow marks the 1986 terminus, the yellow arrow the 2013 terminus, the pink arrow a tributary from the east and the purple arrow a tributary from the west. In 1985 and 1986 the glacier has retreated onto the southeast trending arm of the lake ending at a deep gully on the west side of the lake, red arrow. The tributaries are still well connected to the glacier. By 1993 the glacier has retreated 300 m, the east tributary is still well connected, the west tributary at the purple arrow has considerably diminished. By 2003 the terminus has retreated 1.2 km from the 1985 position, the west tributary is just separating from the main glacier. The snowline is nearly at the top of the west tributary with a month left in the melt season. By 2011 a Google Earth image indicates the loss of connection with the west tributary and the disconnection on the east side which ends in a steep icefall slope. There is also a lake, green arrow just behind the terminus indicating impending rapid retreat will continue. The 2013 Landsat image the terminus has retreated 2.2 km from 1985, that is 78 meters/year. The lake is still evident behind the terminus. The continued significant retreat of Shakes Glacier matches that of other glaciers in the area Great Glacier, Baird Glacier, Patterson Glacier and Sawyer Glacier.
1985 Landsat image