Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Kinematic evolution of a large paraglacial landslide in the Barry Arm fjord of Alaska

November 9, 2023

Our warming climate is adversely affecting cryospheric landscapes via glacial retreat, permafrost degradation, and associated slope destabilization. In Prince William Sound, Alaska, the rapid retreat of Barry Glacier has destabilized the slopes flanking the glacier, resulting in numerous landslides. The largest of these landslides (∼500 Mm3 in volume) is more than 2 km wide and has the potential to generate a tsunami that could affect nearby recreationists, marine traffic, infrastructure, natural and cultural resources, and the community of Whittier, located 60 km from the landslide. Here, we combine landslide structural and kinematic element mapping with data acquired from bi-yearly airborne lidar, multi-week satellite-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR), sub-hourly ground-based SAR, and seismic monitoring from 2020 to 2022 to characterize this landslide and examine its evolution. While some methods serve as a snapshot in time that is a culmination of events, others emphasize the ever-evolving nature of the landslide and associated hazards. Four major kinematic elements define the overall structure of the landslide, which vary in deformation type and rate, from creep (5 mm per day over several months) to episodic movement (2 m in 30 days) and landslide-wide to localized events. In some areas of the landslide, short-term deformation deviates from structures formed by cumulative movement, implying structural and kinematic evolution associated with glacier retreat. These insights are important for assessing landslide hazards and hazard evolution for large, slow-moving bedrock landslides in actively deglaciating environments.

Publication Year 2023
Title Kinematic evolution of a large paraglacial landslide in the Barry Arm fjord of Alaska
DOI 10.1029/2023JF007119
Authors Lauren N. Schaefer, Jeffrey A. Coe, Katreen Wikstrom Jones, Brian D. Collins, Dennis M. Staley, Michael E. West, Ezgi Karasozen, Charles Prentice-James Miles, Gabriel J. Wolken, Ronald P. Daanan, Kelli Wadsworth Baxstrom
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Index ID 70250005
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geologic Hazards Science Center - Seismology / Geomagnetism