Massive landslide detected in Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska


A massive landslide hit Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park on June 28, 2016, when a 1.2-km-high (4 000 feet) mountain collapsed. The event spread debris for kilometers across the glacier below. Just 16 km (10 miles) away, the glacier ends in Johns Hopkins Inlet, a popular tourist stop for cruise ships. A similar sized event in 2015 landed directly in Alaska's remote Taan Fiord, creating a massive tsunami wave.

Geomorphologist Colin Stark, whose team at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory discovered both the 2016 Glacier Bay and the 2015 Taan Fiord landslides, said events such as this happen maybe three to five times per year around the world, and Southeast Alaska is the global hotspot.

Both events were registered by seismograms monitored by the Global CMT Project at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory using a special technique invented by Stark and seismologist Göran Ekström. The technique uses seismic waves to detect landslides in remote areas where they might otherwise go unrecorded.

Stark is headed to Glacier Bay this week, and he took a team to Taan Fiord this spring and is returning in August to study how the landscape and geology affected the landslide and tsunami there. What the scientists learn from recent landslides can help assess landslide risks facing Southeast Alaska and other areas in the future.

A side view of the June 28, 2016, Glacier Bay landslide. Photo: Paul Swanstrom/Mountain Flying Service

Stark and Ekström’s preliminary analysis of the Glacier Bay landslide, which had a 5.2 magnitude, suggests the collapse started at 08:21 local time on June 28, 2016, when a rock face estimated to have been about 1.3 square km (half a square mile) in size collapsed on a high, steep slope.

The rocky debris appears to have accelerated for almost a minute over about 2 km (1.25 miles), Stark said. Once it hit the ice of Lamplugh Glacier, the debris kept sliding, pushing up snow and ice as it moved. A pilot who later landed near the end of the landslide, about 10 km (6 miles) from the collapse site, found that the thickness of the debris there was more than twice the height of a man.

Once the clouds clear and satellite images become available, the scientists will be able to calculate the volume of the Glacier Bay collapse. From their seismic analysis, Stark and Ekström estimate the landslide to have been about 120 million metric tons – the equivalent of about 60 million mid-size SUVs tumbling down a mountainside.

A pilot captured images of a landslide in Glacier Bay National Park in Southeast Alaska that Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory scientists had detected from seismic waves. Photo: Paul Swanstrom/Mountain Flying Service.

As the scientists and their colleagues zoomed in on images of Lamplugh Glacier and the inlet walls around Glacier Bay this week, they pointed out signs of past landslides there. Such signs were detected at Taan Fiord too.

“It’s pretty much the same geology. It’s just a matter of time and space when another landslide will strike,” Stark said. “The thing that really got me: If it just happened a bit further over, near the calving front, that would be a very bad thing. You can see in Google Earth – that’s a cruise ship right there. If the landslide had been closer, it likely would have dumped some debris in the inlet.”

What triggers giant landslides often isn’t clear. In his Alaska research, Stark has noticed that there tend to be more in warmer months, which may be related to warming temperatures or meltwater. Those are some of the questions his team hopes to start answering through their work in Taan Fiord this year.

The scientists have been studying the geology of the fiord and measuring the trim line along the edges where the tsunami wave stripped away the trees and scattered them like match sticks. Colleagues from other universities, the National Park Service, and U.S. Geological Survey are looking at other aspects, including the types of sediment carried by the tsunami wave and the influence of the shape of the fiord below the water line. Pat Lynett of the University of Southern California has been working on modeling how the fiord’s shape would have affected the behavior of the tsunami.

“Putting this in geological context is really important,” Stark said. “These walls are failing by the very nature of the process.”

Glacier Bay has had other spectacular landslides, including one in 2014 on Johns Hopkins Glacier. According to USGS reports, a large earthquake in 1958 triggered a landslide in Lituya Bay, on the coast, which generated a tsunami that killed two people in a fishing boat.

Source:  Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

Featured image credit: Paul Swanstrom/Mountain Flying Service.

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  1. People do not realize these natural events and disasters are a harbinger of much worse to come. We should start using our brain and not hide back into history and find some event akin. We are living in so-called the last days. And at first;

    Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
    Ecclesiastes 1:4 (NIV)

    The world is FOREVER, it is not to end.

    Since the world is not to end, what the religions preach is a lie.

    What will end is human, plant and animal life caused by mankind’s greed and abuse of the environment. We were not made aware of this due to the false doctrines of the religions concerning an afterlife or a paradise in heaven!

    For example- the religions especially Islam; preach that the so-called Garden of Eden or Paradise was to be attained by their believers in the afterlife. This teaching is what they use to motivate their believers to kill and die for their faith.

    Teacher Evangelista encourages us to think about this doctrine of Islamic fundamentalists of attaining paradise through religious killing and Christian preaching of an eternal life with this set of logical questions directed to them:

    For Islamic fundamentalists: “What’s the use of making your religion dominate the Earth If your god’s reward for killing an unbeliever is a place in heaven? In essence, Islam’s aim is to rule the world. Otherwise, the stated reward of going to heaven through the killing of non-believers here on earth is utter nonsense!”

    Also for the Christian Pastors: If the overall purpose of your Christian teaching is to make people enter an eternal life in your so-called heaven by making them pray to your version of god, why are you making your followers donate their money to you? Why still build churches when the world will end anytime as you preach? What do you need the money for? Isn’t it wrong for you to accept any money as well?

    With that simple logic, Teacher Evangelista makes us realize that within their minds, the religious pastors and Muslim imams’ teaching about an afterlife is not true. Their overall objective is only to dominate the Earth, if not, live a luxurious life –tax-free from their members’ hard-earned money.

    Well, actually there already is the main point and it is we have been deceived into thinking these calamities and catastrophes in nature ought to happen and we must suffer until heaven or hell calls. Now we know it is a pure lie and made to deceive people. People of the world must search information and come out of this biggest deception in mankind. Here you have it;

    ”I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.”
    Deuteronomy 18:18-19 NIV

    God has said before in Deuteronomy 18:18-19, about the ONE prophet whom He will send like Moses, and in whose mouth He will place His words (meaning the chosen one will not study the Bible on his own nor will he study ancient languages as God Himself will instruct him about His words) and the prophet will speak in His Name or reveal His (God’s) Name.

    People were led to believe by the religions, that to truly understand the scriptures, one must have an academic degree in Theological studies. If we open our eyes to what God said “I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.”- We can easily understand that in order for a person to explain the word of God in the scriptures, exactly as God meant it, that person’s explanation must come solely from God and not from his own personal opinion or academic study of the scriptures.

    This is why God said: “If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account” – what the prophet speaks about God is not his own interpretation or study but was given directly by God Himself.

    The Bible revelations of the last prophet of God (Deuteronomy 18:18-19), Maestro Teacher Evangelista of http://www.thename.ph and http://www.thenameonline.info

    This is not about a new religion or cult but a MESSAGE and this means whether you accept the ‘Prophet like Moses’-Maestro Evangelista’s Bible revelations in the previously mentioned websites or not is your prerogative -what is important is you have been informed and it is now your choice if you, the readers of this article would also inform others especially your family, friends, loved ones, the people in your community and most importantly your leaders about the messages that the Almighty God of Moses’ commanded Maestro Evangelista to reveal through the Bible in the said websites.

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