GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 383-5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


HARRIS, Anna Gwendolyn and BAICHTAL, James F., U.S. Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Thorne Bay Ranger District, P.O. Box 19001, Thorne Bay, AK 99919,

Glaciers are disappearing rapidly throughout southeast Alaska and across the planet. Scientists grapple for better ways to convey the serious nature of these changes to society and aim to facilitate collaboration with other researchers. This research documents the ongoing retreat and thinning of glaciers in southeast Alaska and provides examples for illustrating the impact of climate change through data visualization. The use of historic and current mapping enables the visualization of the anthropogenic impact on retreating glaciers. In collaboration with the Tongass National Forest climate team, the goal of this research is to create GIS coverage of changing glacier fronts and ice thicknesses using published data, historical maps, photographs, and aerial images for the Chickamin, Baird, LeConte, Patterson, Shakes, Hidden, Popof, Dawes, East and West Nunatak, Fourth, Yakutat, and Hubbard glaciers. The most dramatic rate of change can be seen in the total volume of ice loss. One look at the Baird Glacier’s map indicates the terminus hasn’t moved significantly, but the ice thickness in the valley shows considerable loss over the past 60 years. In 2015, the Baird Glacier experienced an unusually extensive outburst glacial flood. Consequently, glaciologists and biologists considered the impacts of warming temperatures and melting freshwater on marine life. Consistent monitoring of the ice melt improves our ability to predict future floods. Eventually, this data can be shared in a common database such as ArcGIS Online in anticipation of collaborating with groups of interdisciplinary researchers who study similar phenomena. With the knowledge that visualizations carry more impact than words, the use of chronologic maps and photographs in a readily accessible database will spur interest and encourage involvement from the public, in addition to serving as a useful tool for interdisciplinary research and promoting science-based policy decisions.