American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Juneau Ice Field Research Project, 1954

  • Notes
  • Climb Year:
  • Publication Year: 1955

JUNEAU ICE FIELD RESEARCH PROJECT, 1954

Since 1948 the Juneau Ice Field Research Project has conducted in the Juneau area a long-range program studying the relation between glacier behavior and climate. The Project has been supported by the Office of Naval Research and administered by the American Geographical Society of New York.

A major part of the work in past seasons has been concentrated on the Taku Glacier, the largest glacier draining the Juneau Ice Field, and one which has been advancing since the turn of the century. During the summer of 1954, however, a party of only four men was in the field, and all the work was done on the small Lemon Creek Glacier at the southwest corner of the ice field.

The most important part of the research program was a micro- meteorological investigation of energy exchange at a melting snow surface. As well as providing essential information about weather influences on glaciers, such a study permits an evaluation of certain factors in the energy exchange between earth and atmosphere which is not possible over other surfaces. The Lemon Creek Glacier is favorably situated for the type of snow and weather conditions which make such an investigation unusually profitable. Automatic recording instruments, operated from a portable gasoline-driven generator, were used to obtain continuous records of several meteorological factors. A large quantity of data was thus obtained, the complete analysis of which will require many months.

In the course of the investigation of energy exchange it was necessary to devise a more accurate method of measuring snow ablation. The method finally developed permits direct measurement of ablation in terms of mass loss. Though further work is required to increase accuracy, it appears that considerable improvement has been made over previous ablation measurement methods.

One of the Project members made a zoological study of the relation between certain local fauna and climate, and investigated the cryobiology of the Lemon Creek Glacier.

A thorough record was made of summer ablation and annual accumulation on the glacier. From preliminary calculations it appears that the 1954 budget was definitely positive and this year the glacier gained a substantial increment of mass. Recent records indicate that the Lemon Creek Glacier has been approximately in equilibrium for the past several years.

The 1954 season was observed to be one of unusually heavy snow accumulation throughout the Juneau Ice Field area. This is attributed to a cold and late spring. The annual accumulation on the Taku Glacier appeared to be the heaviest yet recorded since the Project has been in the field.

The Lemon Creek Glacier has been proposed as one of a world wide selection of sites for glacier studies during the forthcoming International Geophysical Year. It is planned to have another field party working there in the summer of 1955 in preparation for the IGY, and to continue the present investigations.

Edward R. LaChapelle

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