All Articles

Glaciologists measure, model hard glacier beds, write slip law to estimate glacier speeds

During their trips to glacier beds recently exposed by retreating glaciers in the Swiss Alps (Rhone, Schwarzburg and Tsanfleuron glaciers) and the Canadian Rockies (Castleguard Glacier), four glaciologists used laser and drone technology to precisely measure the rocky beds and record their very different contours.

The researchers turned the measurements into high-resolution digital models of those glacier beds. Then they went to work with manageable but representative subunits of the models to study how glaciers slide along the bedrock base.

“The simplest way to say it is we studied the relationship between the forces at the base of the glacier and how fast the glacier moves,” said Neal Iverson, a professor of geological and atmospheric sciences at Iowa State University and the study leader.

The resulting glacier “slip law” developed by the team describes that “relationship between forces exerted by ice and water on the bed and glacier speed,” Iverson said. And that slip law could be used by other researchers to better estimate how quickly ice sheets flow into oceans, drop their ice and raise sea levels.

You can read the full story at ISU News.