Studying Recent Tsunami Deposits in Icy Bay, Alaska

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On October 17, 2015, a rain-soaked mountainside slid into Taan Fiord on Icy Bay, sending a giant wave more than 500 feet up the opposite slope.

Southeast Alaska’s 18,000-foot Mount Saint Elias rises behind a USGS tent pitched on sandy gravel left by a tsunami 8 months ago. On October 17, 2015, a rain-soaked mountainside slid into Taan Fiord on Icy Bay, sending a giant wave more than 500 feet up the opposite slope. Large tracts of barren landscape along the fiord margins used to be forest. USGS scientists study recent tsunami deposits to better understand how tsunamis work, recognize ancient tsunami deposits, and improve natural-hazard assessments.

Four people looking a flattened trees

USGS scientists investigate trees knocked over by the tsunami at the mouth of Taan Fjord. Flow depth here was likely 5 m based on the height of branches stripped off trees in the background. This event had the 4th highest tsunami runup ever recorded.

(Credit: Peter Haeussler, USGS, Alaska Science Center. Public domain.)

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