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Potential Landslide Can Trigger a Mega Tsunami in Alaska, Scientists Issue Warning

Image for representation. (Reuters)

Image for representation. (Reuters)

The cause of the unstable rock is being attributed to the melting glacier in Prince William Sound, along the south coast of Alaska.

With the advent of climate change, scientists have been issuing warnings of various catastrophic events that will effect the planet in the coming years. One such research conducted by scientists in Alaska, United States, has warned of an impending mega tsunami in the state which can be triggered by a landslide.

In an open letter to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) in May, the scientists, said that they have identified an unstable mountain slope above the toe of Barry Glacier that has the potential to fail and trigger a tsunami. The scientists warn that the tsunami could impact areas visited by tourists, fishing vessels and hunters, endangering the lives of hundreds of people. According to their study, the event might possibly take place within the next year or likely within 20 years.

The cause of the unstable rock is being attributed to the melting glacier in Prince William Sound, along the south coast of Alaska. With rising temperatures and unnatural production of greenhouse gases, climate change has accelerated the melting of glaciers world over. In Alaska, it does seem to be having an impact on mountain slopes above Barry Arm, about 97 kilometres (60 miles) east of Anchorage.

Satellite imagery analysis have shown that with the melting of Barry Glacier from Barry Arm, a large rocky scar called a scarp is emerging on the face of the mountain above it. The analysis indicates an incremental and slow-moving landslide, but if the rock face were to suddenly give way, the consequences could be disastrous.

The potential danger was first noticed by an Ohio-based researcher Chunli Dai in 2019 when she was working on a NASA-funded project to develop new ways to automatically detect landslides in the Arctic. She was looking for test sites to check high-resolution dataset called ArcticDEM and machine learning to automatically search for and flag landslides. She used her tools to check the Barry Arm area and that is when the unstable rock came in sight.

first published:October 20, 2020, 18:53 IST
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