Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:05 AM
AUSTIN POST AND THE REMOTE SENSING OF NORTH AMERICAN GLACIERS
In 1960, following the International Geophysical Year (IGY), Austin Post, a University of Washington (UW) ‘meteorologist,’ began a National-Science-Foundation-funded, systematic aerial photographic effort, the Program for Aerial Photographic Surveying of Glaciers in Western North America.
Its purpose was to document and understand the distribution and behavior of the glaciers of southeastern and southcentral Alaska. Glaciers of the Alaska Range, Alaska Peninsula, and Wrangell Mountains, as well as glaciers of Washington, Oregon, and Canada were also photographed. In 1963, the program was set for termination. However, the March, 27, 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake created an immediate need for photography to understand the quake’s impact on Alaskan glaciers. This revitalized the collection effort. Post wrote that Mark F. Meier, U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) Glaciology Project Director, wanted him to continue the photography and record changes resulting from the shaking. This led to a permanent position as a hydrologist and more than 30 additional years of aerial surveys. The USGS program continued through the early 21st century. In all, more than 500 glaciers were systematically photographed and more than 100,000 photographs were made.
Post received his introduction to “organized aerial photography of glaciers” from Richard C. Hubley of UW, who in 1955 conducted a North Cascade Mountains survey. During the IGY, Post was involved in planning the logistics of the American Geographical Society Glacier Mapping Project, which included obtaining aerial photography of the glaciers to be mapped.
Observing annual-to-decadal scale changes in Alaskan glaciers permitted Post to identify the distribution of surging glaciers and then to develop theories as to why surging occurred. He also used his aerial observations to understand tidewater glacier calving dynamics. Beginning in the late-1970s, Post expanded his pursuit of calving glaciers by outfitting the research vessel GROWLER with echo sounding and and seismic profiling equipment to understand the morphology and bathymetry of tidewater glaciers through marine remote sensing. Austin Post was truly a pioneer glacier remote sensor in every sense of the word.