Karakoram glacier surge dynamics

D. J. Quincey, M. Braun, Neil F. Glasser, M. P. Bishop, K. Hewitt, A. Luckman

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We examine the surges of five glaciers in the Pakistan Karakoram using satellite remote sensing to investigate the dynamic nature of surges in this region and how they may be affected by climate. Surface velocity maps derived by feature-tracking quantify the surge development spatially in relation to the terminus position, and temporally with reference to seasonal weather. We find that the season of surge initiation varies, that each surge develops gradually over several years, and that maximum velocities are recorded within the lowermost 10 km of the glacier. Measured peak surge velocities are between one and two orders of magnitude greater than during quiescence. We also note that two of the glaciers are of a type not previously reported to surge. The evidence points towards recent Karakoram surges being controlled by thermal rather than hydrological conditions, coinciding with high-altitude warming from long-term precipitation and accumulation patterns. Citation: Quincey, D. J., M. Braun, N. F. Glasser, M. P. Bishop, K. Hewitt, and A. Luckman (2011), Karakoram glacier surge dynamics, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L18504, doi: 10.1029/2011GL049004
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 24 Sept 2011


  • Karakoram
  • feature tracking
  • glacier surge
  • remote sensing
  • thermal regime
  • velocity


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