Multi-decadal basal slip enhancement at Saskatchewan Glacier, Canadian Rocky Mountains

Nathan T. Stevens, Collin J. Roland, Lucas K. Zoet, Richard B. Alley, Dougal D. Hansen, Emily Schwans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Glacier motion responds dynamically to changing meltwater inputs, but the multi-decadal response of basal sliding to climate remains poorly constrained due to its sensitivity across multiple timescales. Observational records of glacier motion provide critical benchmarks to decode processes influencing glacier dynamics, but multi-decadal records that precede satellite observation and modern warming are rare. Here we present a record of motion in the ablation zone of Saskatchewan Glacier that spans seven decades. We combine in situ and remote-sensing observations to inform a first-order glacier flow model used to estimate the relative contributions of sliding and internal deformation on dynamics. We find a significant increase in basal sliding rates between melt-seasons in the 1950s and those in the 1990s and 2010s and explore three process-based explanations for this anomalous behavior: (i) the glacier surface steepened over seven decades, maintaining flow-driving stresses despite sustained thinning; (ii) the formation of a proglacial lake after 1955 may support elevated basal water pressures; and (iii) subglacial topography may cause dynamic responses specific to Saskatchewan Glacier. Although further constraints are necessary to ascertain which processes are of greatest importance for Saskatchewan Glacier's dynamic evolution, this record provides a benchmark for studies of multi-decadal glacier dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)71-86
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number273
StatePublished - Feb 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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