Collaborative Research: The 2015 Taan Fiord landslide tsunami: An interdisciplinary study of cause & effect

Lead PI: Dr. Colin P. Stark

Unit Affiliation: Marine and Polar Geophysics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

May 2016 - April 2017
North America ; Alaska ; Taan Fjord
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: As glaciers retreat, the ice pressing up against their valley walls disappears. These rock walls then become unstable and can collapse in catastrophic landslides. In Alaska, where this phenomenon is increasingly common, landslides sometimes fall directly into the ocean and trigger a tsunami. This is what happened in October 2015 in the Taan Fiord: the largest rock avalanche in America in decades plunged 150 million tons of debris into the head of the fiord, producing a wave of water that ran 150m up the opposite bank and scoured the forested flanks of the fiord for at least 12km. The goal of the project is to collect observations of this Taan landslide and tsunami, and to deliver a benchmark dataset to the science and engineering communities so that they can better prepare for future disasters. The project will combine satellite images, field observations and ship-based mapping to constrain the dynamics of the landslide and tsunami, including the mass and velocity of debris when it struck the water, the magnitude of tsunami wave generation and its pattern of motion, and the submarine flow of debris and its deposition. Data collection will take place in the summer of 2016 and will be delivered to the community by the winter.