Understanding the response of Alaska's ecosystems to a changing climate to support resource managers and sustainable communities

 

ice from a glacier in a basin

Photo from site visit on July 8th, 2019

The lake started overtopping the dam on Sunday 7 July in the morning and reached its maximum level shortly thereafter. The water level in the basin has been slowly dropping since due to erosion of the overflowing water at the ice dam. Subglacial drainage has not begun as of Monday afternoon. In 2018, the lake started draining subglacially within ~24 hours of dam overtopping. The timeline will be different this season, however, accurate predictions are not possible. We suspect subglacial drainage will happen within the next few days.

ice from a glacier in Suicide Basin

Photo from site visit on July 5th, 2019

The water in Suicide Basin has gone up by 8.25 m over the last week. On Friday afternoon, the lake level was at 436 m, which is within 1.5 to 2.0 m of the lowest point of the dam.

Dam overtopping will likely start between Saturday 6 July and Sunday 7 July. The lake may start draining subglacially before or after overtopping. In 2018, the lake started draining subglacially within ~24 hours of dam overtopping, however, the timeline may be different this season.

Suicide Basin

Photo from site visit on June 28th, 2019

The water in Suicide Basin has gone up by 7 m (~1 m per day) since our last site visit on 21 June. On Friday afternoon, the surveyed lake level was at 427.75 m, which is ~10 m below the lowest point of the dam. Given the very warm weather and thus increasing filling rates over recent days, dam overtopping may start in early July. This is only a rough estimate for the timing of the subglacial lake drainage, since the lake may drain before or after overtopping.

People at desks take notes

Participants learned tools for communicating their science from media experts. Photo by Heather McFarland.

Scientists with the AK CASC and International Arctic Research Center (IARC) learned skills in interacting with the media and communicating their work clearly during the day-long training.

ice from a glacier in a basin

Photo from field visit on June 21st, 2019

The water in Suicide Basin has gone up by 14 m (~1 m per day) since our last site visit on 7 June. On Friday afternoon, the surveyed lake level was at 420.35 m and thus ~18 m below the lowest point of the dam. Based on filling rates from previous years, dam overtopping may start around 12 July (see graph on the new NOAA website https://www.weather.gov/ajk/suicideBasin). This is only a rough estimate, since the lake may drain before overtopping and since filling rates may change from day to day.

Women with backpack and paddle stands near sign in mountains

Image courtesy of Amy Macpherson

Amy Macpherson joins us as the SNAP and AK CASC Data Manager and Analyst. Macpherson will be assisting with assisting researchers with metadata creation and maintenance and in keeping data organized and accessible for all users.

Image from a timelapse camera in the basin, with a scale to measure water level.

Image from a timelapse camera in the basin from June 7, 2019, with a scale to measure water level.

We drilled in a new melt wire at the basin entrance (to continue the ice melt measurements we started last spring), deployed the drone (for DEMs and orthoimages), surveyed the lowest point in the dam (to constrain the maximum water level), and deployed additional air temperature sensors higher up in the basin (to facilitate melt modeling across the entire Suicide Basin watershed).

an image of suicide basin water levels, with a water level scale.

Image from a timelapse camera in the basin, with a scale to measure water level.

Using the drone-based elevations models from last year, we derived an approximate vertical scale for the rock face on the north side of the basin. This scale is plotted on top of the telemetered photos and gives an approximate idea about the ice/water elevation in the absence of telemetered water level measurements. 

Vertical scale bar measuring water level along the rock wall.

Vertical scale bar along the rock wall.

We installed the non-telemetered water level gauges, webcam, temperature and precipitation gauges, and the on-ice GPS. We also measured ice melt. We didn’t fly the drone and weren’t able to access/survey the water surface this time.

a group watches as two men turn a drone on

Preparing the drone for a flight survey (Photo Molly Tankersley).

AK CASC's Christian Kienholz taught a class at the UAS titled "Using Drones for Environmental Monitoring." With Eran Hood and Gabriel Wolken, he trained students to use drones for aerial mapping.

Pages

Kristine Sowl, USFWS, YDNWR, Public Domain via Flickr

AK CASC’s Ryan Toohey, Jeremy Littell, and Malinda Chase will travel to communities participating in the Looking Forward, Looking Back workshop.

AK CASC on Twitter

Research Highlight

A group of AK CASC-affiliated researchers has reached some important successes in their efforts to downscale past climate profiles in and around Alaska.

Subscribe to Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center RSS