In the USA, climate change is expected to have an adverse impact on slope stability in Alaska. However, to date, there has been limited work done in Alaska to assess if changes in slope stability are occurring. To address this issue, we used 30-m Landsat imagery acquired from 1984 to 2016 to establish an inventory of 24 rock avalanches in a 5000-km2 area of Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve in southeast Alaska. A search of available earthquake catalogs revealed that none of the avalanches were triggered by earthquakes. Analyses of rock-avalanche magnitude, mobility, and frequency reveal a cluster of large (areas ranging from 5.5 to 22.2 km2), highly mobile (height/length < 0.3) rock avalanches that occurred from June 2012 through June 2016 (near the end of the 33-year period of record). These rock avalanches began about 2 years after the long-term trend in mean annual maximum air temperature may have exceeded 0 °C. Possibly more important, most of these rock avalanches occurred during a multiple-year period of record-breaking warm winter and spring air temperatures. These observations suggested to us that rock avalanches in the study area may be becoming larger because of rock-permafrost degradation. However, other factors, such as accumulating elastic strain, glacial thinning, and increased precipitation, may also play an important role in preconditioning slopes for failure during periods of warm temperatures.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Increasing rock-avalanche size and mobility in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Alaska detected from 1984 to 2016 Landsat imagery|
|Contributing office(s)||Geologic Hazards Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve|