February 28, 2016

Shamrock Glacier, Alaska Loses Terminus Tongue

Posted by Mauri Pelto

shamrock glacier compare
Shamrock Glacier comparison in 1987 and 2014 Landsat images. Red arrow 1987 terminus, yellow arrow 2014 terminus, purple arrows upglacier thinning and purple dots the snowline. The terminus tongues extending into the lake has been lost.

Shamrock Glacier flows north from the Neacola Mountains into Chakachamna Lake in the Lake Clark National Park of Alaska. This lake is transited by several species of salmon, mainly sockeye, heading into spawning  areas upriver. The lake had been the site of a proposed hydropower plant, that would not have required building of a dam, but this project is currently not being developed. The National Park Service completed a Southwest Alaska Network mapping project that identified the changes of glaciers in the region. Lake Clark NP has 1740 glaciers which have lost 12% of their total area from 1950 to 2009 (Loso et al, 2014). Here we examine Landsat imagery from 1987 to 2014 to identify recent change of Shamrock Glacier.

shamrock glacier profile
July 2015 image looking across Shamrock Lake to Shamrock Glacier, taken by Jerry Pillarelli, note he has many more gorgeous images of area. The trimline on the far side of the glacier between sediment and vegetation indicates the 1950 margin. There is an elevation step several hundred meters inland of the terminus indicating Shamrock Lake will expand little.

In 1987 Shamrock Glacier had receded from a terminal moraine in Chakachamna Lake that it had terminated on in the 1950’s map. The new proglacial lake was less than 500 m across. The snowline was at 1200 m. In 2000 seen below the snowline was at 1350 m, and the terminus had narrowed more than it had retreated. By 2014 the terminus had retreated 900 m leaving the new Shamrock Lake within Chackachamna Lake. The new Shamrock Lake has an area of 4 square kilometers. This is the majority of the loss in glacier area since 1950 as well. In 2014 the snowline is quite high at 1450 m. A snowline that is consistently above 1300 m will drive continued retreat. Thinning upglacier is evident with expanded bedrock areas adjacent to the glacier margin above 1200 m at the purple arrows, indicating the snowline has been consistently higher than this. The retreat is similar to other glaciers in the region South Sheep Glacier, Sovereign Glacier and Fourpeaked Glacier.  With the glacier retreating out of the lake basin soon, the rate of retreat should decline.

shamrock glacier 2000
2000 Landsat image

shamrock glacier ge 2013
2013 Image of Shamrock Glacier, Shamrock Lake and Chakachamna Glacier.