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.
What is clear is that glacier retreat in Prince William Sound, along the south coast of Alaska, does seem to be having an impact on mountain slopes above Barry Arm, about 97 kilometers (60 miles) east of Anchorage.
Analysis of satellite imagery suggests that as Barry Glacier retreats from Barry Arm due to ongoing melting, a large rocky scar called a scarp is emerging on the face of the mountain above it.
This indicates an incremental, slow-moving landslide is already taking place above the fjord, but if the rock face were to suddenly give way, the consequences could be dire.
Although it’s remote, this is an area that’s frequented by commercial and recreational boats, including cruise ships.