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Detection and assessment of a large and potentially‐tsunamigenic periglacial landslide in Barry Arm, Alaska

October 29, 2020

The retreat of glaciers in response to global warming has the potential to trigger landslides in glaciated regions around the globe. Landslides that enter fjords or lakes can cause tsunamis, which endanger people and infrastructure far from the landslide itself. Here we document the ongoing movement of an unstable slope (total volume of 455 million m3) in Barry Arm, a fjord in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The slope moved rapidly between 2010 and 2017, yielding a horizontal displacement of 120 m, which is highly correlated with the rapid retreat and thinning of Barry Glacier. Should the entire unstable slope collapse at once, preliminary tsunami modeling suggests a maximum runup of 300 m near the landslide, which may have devastating impacts on local communities. Our findings highlight the need for interdisciplinary studies of recently deglaciated fjords to refine our understanding of the impact of climate change on landslides and tsunamis.