Sunday, 25 Oct 2020

Climate change may cause more deadly tsunamis as arctic ice melts, warn experts

Climate change could be leading to an increased risk of tsunamis due to the rapid meting of arctic ice.

Scientists have warned of a link between the melting of the ice and tsunamis caused by landslides – posing a risk to towns, villages, and tourists.

Mountains in Alaska and other high altitude destinations around the world have seen mountains start to collapse as the permafrost that holds them up melts.

Research from the past thirty years discovered that landslides in Alaska’s Glacier Bay occurred in the years that were warmer than usual.

Devastating tsunamis could be triggered by landslides if mountains and large masses of earth and rock collapse with the increased temperatures, sending land in to the seas and oceans.

There are fears that a large area of land on the Barry Arm fjord in Alaska could tumble in to the ocean inside the Gulf of Alaska in the north of the North Pacific Ocean.

The stretch of water is popular with cruises, while some towns and villages exist near the water in the surrounding area – with the town of Whittier at risk of being submerged in 10 meters of water.

Geologist Bretwood Higman, who has worked on Taan Fiord and Barry Arm, warned the Guardian: “When the climate changes, the landscape takes time to adjust.

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“If a glacier retreats really quickly it can catch the surrounding slopes by surprise – they might fail catastrophically instead of gradually adjusting.”

Land in the area has been recorded moving at a faster rate in the past decade – with satellite images finding discovering a drastic change in the past 10 years since the Barry Arm was found to be moving at the beginning of the 1900s.

Fellow geologist Erin Bessette-Kirton has found landslides in Alaska’s St Elias mountains and Glacier Bay correspond with the warmest years.

The scientist said: “We have correlations, but we don’t know the driving force. What conditions the landslide, and what triggers it?”

While tsunamis could be more frequent as more water has been produced by melting ice caps – with fjords and glacial lakes growing in size while the nearby ice is reduced.

The Guardian reports that the scientists hope to develop an early warning system by installing sensors to the most dangerous slopes which would then allow an alarm to be raised if there is a risk of a tsunami.

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