Kenai Conversation: Landslide poses tsunami risk in Prince William Sound

May 20, 2020

An unstable slope caused by the retreat of Barry Glacier, northeast of Whittier in Prince William Sound, has geologists worried about a potential massive landslide and resulting tsunami.   
“It would be about the size of around 500 Empire State buildings falling into the fjord at once if it did release as a solid mass on the unstable slope.”
The resulting tsunami wave could be 30 feet or more in Whittier, arriving about 18 minutes after the landslide.

Valisa Higman, an artist in Seldovia, talks about first noticing the unstable slope. She referred it to her brother, geologist Dr. Bretwood “Hig” Higman, with Ground Truth Alaska, in Seldovia, who got a team of other scientists involved. Thanks also to Dr. Gabriel Wolken, manager of the Climate and Cryosphere Hazards Program of the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys and research assistant professor with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and Dr. Chunli Dai, senior research associate with the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University, for joining us this hour.