Garth Ornelas

Garth Ornelas

Years participated in RESESS:

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An Overview

Major: Physics
Academic Affiliation: Southwestern University
Research Mentors: Matt Pritchard
Communication Mentor: Chelsea Scott


At a young age my obsession with the physical phenomena of our world spurred an interest in the outdoors and the pursuit of scientific knowledge. This same path led me to pursue an undergraduate degree in physics in order to gain a broad understanding of our universe so as to discover a more specific field of study to pursue in graduate school. My summer research involved the study of glacier movement and changes in the Russian High Arctic. Glacial behavior in the area will affect global scale changes such as rising ocean level and cryosphere- atmosphere interaction.


Monitoring Glacier Velocities in the Russian High Arctic

The 2200 km3 Academy of Sciences ice cap, located on Komsomolets Island in the Severnaya Zemlya Archipelago, is the largest ice cap by volume in the Russian High Arctic (Dowdeswell et al., 2002). We examine recent velocities variations at the outlet glaciers around the perimeter of the ice cap. Most of these glaciers are tidewater glaciers that calve into the ocean. Our observations of velocities at the five major outlet glaciers made between 2011 and 2013 are compared to the rates motions measured in the 1990’s and 2000’s (Moholdt et al., 2012; Stewart, 2014) to determine if the velocities have changed.

We implement a normalized cross-correlation pixel tracking process in order to determine the velocity of the ice stream-like outlet glaciers. Orthorectified high-resolution satellite image pairs from Worldview 1 and 2 with an ideal time separation of 1-3 months during the spring and summer are used. We select imagery from the spring and summer periods where crevasses are clearly observed. We estimate uncertainties by examining apparent motion at bedrock outcrops adjacent to the glaciers.

We find our velocities to be consistent with other research in the area for the timespan of 2009-2012 (Stewart, 2014), and see increases in velocity compared to results dating back to 1995 (Moholdt et al.). Our results also yield visible seasonal variations in velocity.