Study Shows Global Warming Increases The Risk Of Landslide Tsunamis

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Back in 2015, the tsunami which ripped through an Alaskan fjord created a wave of almost 200 meters, making it the largest ever to be documented. However, it almost went unnoticed, because it caused no victims. It all happened because Tyndall Glacier started melting, triggering a massive rockfall.

Experts saw clear proof of tsunamis being generated by a landslide.

Global warming is an undeniable phenomenon that causes glaciers to shrink fast, increasing the risk of tidal waves, causing rocky slopes to collapse, as ice keeps retreating. A study published on 6 September in Scientific Reports shows the imminent risks that come with climate change.

“As glaciers thin around the world, they are modifying their landscapes dramatically. In the case of Taan Fjord, the result was a massive tsunami,” explained Dr. Dan Shugar, who is the co-author of the study and an assistant professor of Geoscience (University of Washington Tacoma).

Risk of Natural Hazards Increased By the “Indirect Effect of Climate Change”

“The tsunami was triggered by a massive landslide in October 2015 that occurred above a glacier that had retreated dramatically in the late 20th century,” he added.

The authors explain that the study is a benchmark for scientists to use when they run scenarios of landslide and tsunami hazards, adding that:

“Our results call attention to an indirect effect of climate change that is increasing the frequency and magnitude of natural hazards near glaciated mountains.”

The team used satellite data and images of the Taan Fjord, mapping the event in detail. Shugar explained that it allowed them to “better reconstruct where and when similar events have occurred elsewhere, thereby building a more complete picture of this hazard.”

Taan Fjord showed signs that it wasn’t stable almost two decades ago, and in the meanwhile, the glacial slopes that crumbled were a strong warning that a bigger event might happen.

The authors added that monitoring the gradual downslope of mountain ranges all over the world would be a way to mitigate risk, although it is a technical challenge. They also warn that when glaciers are falling apart and form icebergs not only create landslide tsunamis, but they also increase tidal waves.

Rex Austin

Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere