Drainage events from a glacier-dammed lake, Bear Glacier, Alaska: Remote sensing and field observations

A. C. Wilcox, A. A. Wade, E. G. Evans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


We investigated drainage events from a glacier-dammed lake on Bear Glacier, Alaska, and associated outburst floods and hazards. The glacier-dammed lake, which we call Ice Lake, is 17.5km up-glacier from Bear Glacier's terminus at Bear Glacier Lake. We combine field observations and remote sensing to examine temporal changes in the size of Ice Lake, the frequency and timing of its drainage, and down-glacier propagation of its outburst floods. We found that in recent years, Ice Lake has likely drained every year or two, in late summer or fall (August-October), with outbursts generally following the damming of sufficient water to create a lake area of between 0.35 and 0.5km2. Ice Lake has migrated downvalley to the south since the 1990s, likely as a result of thinning of the glacier that dams it. In situ measurements of a drainage event in October 2010 showed that Ice Lake drained over a period of days, which manifested at Bear Glacier Lake as a gradual, multiday increase and then decrease in water levels. Glacial lake outburst flooding at Bear Glacier creates risks for sea kayakers in Bear Glacier Lake and may be relevant to understanding the effects of climate warming on glacier-dammed and proglacial lakes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-49
Number of pages9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2014


  • Glacial lake outburst flood
  • Hazards
  • Ice-dammed lake
  • Jökulhlaups
  • Normalized-difference water index
  • Proglacial lake


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