Melting glacier threatens to trigger a catastrophic tsunami in Alaska

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A glacier in Alaska is threatening to trigger a potentially deadly and historic tsunami as it retreats under the overheated stress of climate change. A giant, catastrophic tsunami in Alaska triggered by a landslide of rock left unstable after glacier melting is likely to occur in the next two decades, scientists fear – and it could happen within the next 12 months.

A group of scientists warned of the prospects of this impending disaster in Prince William Sound in an open letter to the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR) in May. While the potential risks of such a landslide are very serious, there remain a lot of unknowns about just how or when this calamity could take place. In the study, researchers modeled different scenarios to find that such a collapse could produce a tsunami moving at up to 90 miles per hour (145 kilometers per hour) across the sound, which is frequented by large cruise and cargo ships as well as fishing boats and kayakers. They report that waves could reach heights of 33 feet (10 meters) in the nearby town of Whittier.

New data continues to come in from Prince William Sound, however. On Tuesday, the ADNR reported satellite images showed renewed movement of the unstable slope in the form of “eight inches of downslope creep between October 9 and October 24.”

State officials are asking everyone to avoid the area of Prince William Sound near the Barry Arm.