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The changing glaciers of Mt. Hood, Oregon and Mt. Rainier, Washington: Implications for periglacial debris flows

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Author(s): Jonathan R. Ellinger

Document Type: M.S. Thesis
Publisher: Oregon State University
Published Year: 2010
Pages: 163
DOI Identifier:
ISBN Identifier:

Mountain glaciers are receding worldwide with numerous consequences including changing hydrology and geomorphology. This study focuses on changes in glacier area on Mt. Hood, Oregon and Mt. Rainier, Washington where damaging debris flows have occurred in glaciated basins. Landsat imagery is used to map debris-free ice on a decadal time scale from 1987 to 2005. Debris-free glacier ice is clearly delineated using a ratio of Landsat spectral bands in the near-infrared part of the spectrum (bands 4 & 5). Landsat scenes were chosen during the months of September and October to minimize snow cover left over from the accumulation season and maximize exposure of debris-free glacial ice. SNOTEL data were also used to find the lowest snow year for each decade to minimize the potential of misclassifying remnant snow as glacial ice. Changes in debris-free ice are mapped to produce the most up-to-date rates of glacier retreat. Average glacial slopes, derived from airborne LiDAR data are used to compute slope corrected debris-free ice areas for all glaciers. A threshold value for the Landsat NDGI scenes was selected based on threshold testing on the Eliot and Reid glaciers on Mt. Hood. Contradicting earlier studies that say the glaciers on Mt. Hood are receding faster than the glaciers on Mt. Rainier, results show that from 1987 to 2005 Mt. Rainier and Mt. Hood lost similar amounts of debris-free ice extent at 14.0% and 13.9%, respectively. For both Mt. Hood and Mt. Rainier the change in slope corrected debris-free ice area was greater than that of the projected area change due to the steep slopes of both mountains. For Mt. Rainier an increase in recession rate was shown from 1992-2005 compared to 1987-1992 while on Mt. Hood the opposite is seen. On Mt. Rainier it was found that highly fragmented glaciers at lower elevations such as the Inter, Pyramid, and the Van Trump Glaciers lost the highest percent of their original 1987 ice extent and were also shown to be associated with new debris flows in 2006. On Mt. Hood none of the 2006 debris flows initiated within zones of recent glacial recession, however, all debris flows from 2006 originated from streams with a direct connection to glaciers. The Newton Clark Glacier, having lost the most coverage of debris-free ice from 1987 to 2005, is also associated with the highest number of debris-flows in its drainage since 1980. Precipitation data for both mountains show no trend but there was a statistically significant increase in summer air temperature at Mt. Hood over the period 1984-2009. This study suggests that glaciers may play a role in the location of initiation sites, of debris flows, but there is not enough evidence to argue that glacier recession is responsible for producing debris flows.

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In Text Citation:
Ellinger (2010) or (Ellinger, 2010)

References Citation:
Ellinger, J.R., 2010, The changing glaciers of Mt. Hood, Oregon and Mt. Rainier, Washington: Implications for periglacial debris flows: M.S. Thesis, Oregon State University, 163 p..