Sedimentology and Geomorphology of a Large Tsunamigenic Landslide, Taan Fiord, Alaska
On 17 October 2015, a landslide of roughly 60×106m3 occurred at the terminus of Tyndall Glacier in Taan Fiord, southeastern Alaska. It caused a tsunami that inundated an area over 20km2, whereas the landslide debris itself deposited within a much smaller area of approximately 2km2. It is a unique event in that the landslide debris was deposited into three very different environments: on the glacier surface, on land, and in the marine waters of the fjord. Part of the debris traversed the width of the fjord and re-emerged onto land, depositing coherent hummocks with preserved source stratigraphy on an alluvial fan and adjacent moraines on the far side of the fjord. Imagery from before the landslide shows that the catastrophic slope failure was preceded by deformation and sliding for at least the two decades since the glacier retreated to its current terminus location, exposing steep and extensively faulted slopes. A small volume of the total slide mass remains within the source area and is topped by striated blocks (>10m across) and standing trees that were transported down the slope in intact positions during the landslide. Field work was carried out in the summer of 2016, and by the time this paper was written, almost all of the supraglacial debris was advected into the fjord and half the subaerial hummocks were buried by glacial advance; this rapid change illustrates how highly active sedimentary processes in high-altitude glacial settings can skew any landslide-frequency analyses, and emphasizes the need for timely field investigations of these natural hazards.
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Dufresne, A.; Geertsema, M.; Shugar, D. H.; Koppes, M.; Higman, B.; Haeussler, P. J.; Stark, C.; Venditti, J. G.; Bonno, D.; Larsen, C.; Gulick, S. P.; McCall, N.; Walton, M.; Loso, M. G.; and Willis, M. J., "Sedimentology and Geomorphology of a Large Tsunamigenic Landslide, Taan Fiord, Alaska" (2018). SIAS Faculty Publications. 899.