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Sci Rep. 2018 Sep 6;8(1):12993. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-30475-w.

The 2015 landslide and tsunami in Taan Fiord, Alaska.

Author information

Ground Truth Trekking, Seldovia, AK, USA.
Water, Sediment, Hazards, and Earth-surface Dynamics (WaterSHED) Lab, School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington Tacoma, Tacoma, WA, USA.
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, Palisades, NY, USA.
Geography Dept., University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.
Tsunami Research Center, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA.
Engineering Geology and Hydrogeology, RWTH-Aachen University, Aachen, Germany.
U.S. Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK, USA.
British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, Prince George, BC, Canada.
Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, USA.
Ground Truth Trekking, Seldovia, AK, USA.
Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada.
U.S. Geological Survey, Santa Cruz, CA, USA.
Central Washington University Dept. of Geological Sciences, Ellensburg, WA, USA.
National Park Service, Geologic Resources Division, Denver, CO, USA.
Virginia Tech Department of Geosciences, Blacksburg, VA, USA.
CIRES, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA.
Texas A&M University Department of Geology and Geophysics, College Station, TX, USA.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks - Glaciology, Geophysical Institute, Fairbanks, AK, USA.
National Park Service, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Yakutat, AK, USA.
National Park Service, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Copper Center, AK, USA.


Glacial retreat in recent decades has exposed unstable slopes and allowed deep water to extend beneath some of those slopes. Slope failure at the terminus of Tyndall Glacier on 17 October 2015 sent 180 million tons of rock into Taan Fiord, Alaska. The resulting tsunami reached elevations as high as 193 m, one of the highest tsunami runups ever documented worldwide. Precursory deformation began decades before failure, and the event left a distinct sedimentary record, showing that geologic evidence can help understand past occurrences of similar events, and might provide forewarning. The event was detected within hours through automated seismological techniques, which also estimated the mass and direction of the slide - all of which were later confirmed by remote sensing. Our field observations provide a benchmark for modeling landslide and tsunami hazards. Inverse and forward modeling can provide the framework of a detailed understanding of the geologic and hazards implications of similar events. Our results call attention to an indirect effect of climate change that is increasing the frequency and magnitude of natural hazards near glaciated mountains.

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