Lowell Glacier

Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 1: The receding Lowell Glacier produced Lowell Lake, into which icebergs are calved and dispersed into the lake water (Nahanni River Adventures, http, 2007).

Location: St. Elias Mountains in the Alsek River Watershed (USGS, 2002).

  • Past 1000 years: The surging Lowell Glacier repeatedly dammed the Alsek River, creating Glacial Lake Alsek. When the ice dam broke, massive floods occurred (USGS, http, 2007).

  • 1852: Glacial Lake Alsek was 100 km long and 100 m deep (Environment Canada, http, 1999). Native stories tell of a group of Tlingits camped along the Alsek and Tatshenshini Rivers who drowned during the massive flooding events (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

  • 1915: Lowell Glacier was reported by the United States Geological Survey. It is believed to be named after Mr. Lowell, the first white settler on Seward (USGS, 2007).

  • 1920's: A small lake formed in the Alsek Valley (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

  • 1948-1950: surge of Lowell Glacier (USGS, http, 2002).

  • 1968-1970: surge of Lowell Glacier (USGS, http, 2002).

  • 1973: pre-surge, quiescent conditions (USGS, http, 2002).

  • 1983 (April): Lowell Glacier began to surge after a 15- year quiescent period. Flow rates measured ranged from 12 m/ day to 45 m/ day (USGS, http, 2002).

Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 2: Lowell Glacier before the 1983 surge, Landsat. (USGS, http, 2002).
Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 3: Lowell Glacier during the 1983 surge, Landsat imagery (USGS, http, 2002).

Table 1: Change in the Position of the Terminus of Lowell Glacier 1973-1983 using Landsat Imagery (USGS, http, 2002).
Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project

Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 4: Change in the position of the Lowell Glacier Terminus 1973-1983 (USGS, http, 2002).

Lowell Glacier - Canadian Glacier Inventory Project
Figure 5: Displacement of Lowell Glacier 1973-1983 (USGS, http, 2002).
  • 1997: The last major advance of Lowell Glacier almost choked off Lowell Lake with ice. The glacier receded the following summer (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

  • 1998-1999: The most recent surge of the Lowell Glacier (but not as far as the 1997 advance) (Environment Canada, http, 1999).
Glacier Characteristics:

Type: surging (USGS, 2002)
Altitude: Latitude: 061303N (USGS, 2007)
Longitude: 1494544W (USGS, 2007)
Length: 70 km (USGS, 2002).
Width: no data
Volume/Mass: no data
Thermal regime: warm glacier

  • Lowell Glacier surges every 15-20 years (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

Interestest Facts/ Concerns:

1. Could Glacial Lake Alsek ever form again?
    • On hillsides in the Alsek Valley, long benches indicate past waves and driftwood marks past beaches. Although it is unknown how many times a lake has formed here, it is obvious that the lake filled to different levels and at different time periods over the past 1000 years (Environment Canda, http, 1999).
    • According to University of British Columbia's glaciologist Garry Clarke, "I think there is almost no chance that a large lake could form right now because there is not enough ice there to form a high dam" (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

2. Is there any chance of a major flooding event occurring in the near future?
  • The flood events from such a small lake would not have such catastrophic effects as those from a larger lake like Glacial Lake Alsek.
  • However, if a large flood event did occur, the town of Haines Junction and about 15 km of the Alaska Highway would be submerged (Environment Canada, http, 1999).

Environment Canada- Pacific and Yukon Region-Your Yukon Columns, 1999. Glaciers Gallop in Cycles. Available at: http://taiga.net/yourYukon/col130.html. (Accessed on: 24-02-07).

United States Geological Survey, 2002. Glaciers of the St. Elias Mountains. Available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/prof/p1386j/ (Accessed on 21-02-07).

United States Geological Survey, 2007. National Mapping Information: Lowell Glacier. Available at: http://geonames.usgs.gov/pls/gnis/web_query.GetDetail?tab=Y&id=1423439

Nahanni River Adventures, 2007. Tatshenshini River Expedition Trip Photos. Available at: http://www.nahanni.com/trips/tatshenshiniriver/?pid=9 (Accessed on 21-02-2007).
(Accessed on 27-01-07).

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