An unstable mountain slope could come crashing down and create a catastrophic tsunami anytime from this year to within the next 20 years.
A group of 14 international scientists carried out a study on the imminent danger that could be caused by the Barry Glacier melting in Alaska. The melting, which would lead to the landslide on the mountain slope, is possibly due to global warming side effects.
Their findings have been published online on the DocumentCloud server.
A glacier melting that leads to a landslide, which in turn leads to a tsunami — it's a domino effect waiting to happen in Alaska's Harriman Fjord.
The Fjord is located around 60 miles east of Anchorage, on the southern edge of Alaska. If a tsunami were to generate in the Fjord it would likely kick off at a height of 100 feet and go down to 30 feet as it nears Port Wells, and onwards to Prince William Sound. The entire area houses approximately 291,000 residents.
The authors of the study point out that this type of tsunami would impact hundreds of people straight off the bat, including tourists, residents, hunters, fishers, and anyone in the vicinity.
Upon observing photos of the mountain slope in question between 2009 and 2015, the researchers noticed it had very slowly inched down around 600 feet. All it would take, they note, is for heavy rainfall, an earthquake, a warm summer, or a lot of snow for an avalanche to be triggered.
While they recognize that danger is imminent, the authors of the study can't pinpoint exactly when such a phenomenon will occur. It could be as soon as this year, or in 20 years' time. They also point out that the result of the sliding mountain slope began possibly due to global warming, as some parts of Alaska are warming twice as quickly as the rest of the planet.
It's also looking likely that such landslides will become more and more prominent in the region as glaciers keep retreating, which leads to valleys and mountain sides to lose support. Naturally, when landslides drop into water, the typical result leads to tsunamis.