In early December 2020, an atmospheric river (AR) and rain-on-snow (ROS) event impacted the Haines, Alaska area, resulting in record-breaking rainfall and snowmelt that caused flooding and dozens of mass movement events. We consider the AR—a one-in-500-year event—as the trigger for the devastating Beach Road Landslide (BRLS), which destroyed or damaged four residences and took the lives of two people. The BRLS started as a debris avalanche and transitioned into a debris flow, with a total approximate landslide volume of 187,100 m3. Geomorphic analysis using lidar data identified evidence of paleo-landslides and displaced masses of rock, one of which served as the source area for the BRLS. Significant structural features in the weak ultramafic bedrock defined the head scarp area and formed the failure plane. This study illustrates the importance of identifying pre-existing landslide features and source areas likely to produce future landslides. As an increase in ROS events is projected for Southeast Alaska with warmer and wetter winters, we recommend the development of an AR scale coupled with geological information for the region, to enhance warnings to residents in landslide-prone areas.
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Late Pleistocene and early Holocene sea-level history and glacial retreat interpreted from shell-bearing marine deposits of southeastern Alaska, USAAbstract We leverage a data set of >720 shell-bearing marine deposits throughout southeastern Alaska (USA) to develop updated relative sea-level curves that span the past ∼14,000 yr. This data set includes site location, elevation, description when available, and 436 14C ages, 45 of which are published here for the first time. Our sea-level curves suggest a peripheral forebulge developed west of the retreating Cordilleran Ice Sheet (CIS) margin between ca. 17,000 and 10,800 calibrated yr B.P. By 14,870 ± 630 to 12,820 ± 340 cal. yr B.P., CIS margins had retreated from all of southeastern Alaska's fjords, channels, and passages. At this time, isolated or stranded ice caps existed on the islands, with alpine or tidewater glaciers in many valleys. Paleoshorelines up to 25 m above sea level mark the maximum elevation of transgression in the southern portion of the study region, which was achieved by 11,000 ± 390 to 10,500 ± 420 cal. yr B.P. The presence of Pacific sardine (Sardinops sagax) and the abundance of charcoal in sediments that date between 11,000 ± 390 and 7630 ± 90 cal. yr B.P. suggest that both ocean and air temperatures in southeastern Alaska were relatively warm in the early Holocene.more »
Abstract Understanding marine-terminating ice sheet response to past climate transitions provides valuable long-term context for observations of modern ice sheet change. Here, we reconstruct the last deglaciation of marine-terminating Cordilleran Ice Sheet (CIS) margins in Southeast Alaska and explore potential forcings of western CIS retreat. We combine 27 new cosmogenic 10 Be exposure ages, 13 recently published 10 Be ages, and 25 new 14 C ages from raised marine sediments to constrain CIS recession. Retreat from the outer coast was underway by 17 ka, and the inner fjords and sounds were ice-free by 15 ka. After 15 ka, the western margin of the CIS became primarily land-terminating and alpine glaciers disappeared from the outer coast. Isolated alpine glaciers may have persisted in high inland peaks until the early Holocene. Our results suggest that the most rapid phase of CIS retreat along the Pacific coast occurred between ~17 and 15 ka. This retreat was likely driven by processes operating at the ice-ocean interface, including sea level rise and ocean warming. CIS recession after ~15 ka occurred during a time of climatic amelioration in this region, when both ocean and air temperatures increased. These data highlight the sensitivity of marine-terminating CIS regionsmore »