Outburst from glacier hard to predict

    Photo credit to Christian Kienholz.

    Juneau, Alaska (KINY) - Around each July we can count on some kind of glacial outburst from the Mendenhall Glacier. The question for researchers is how large will the outburst be in 2020?

    Each year since 2011 the outburst floods occur.  They are caused when water dammed by the glacier suddenly releases and floods downstream areas.

    In 2016, there were some major impacts in the Mendenhall Valley.

    Over 16,000 cubic feet per second of water flowed down the Mendenhall River impacting homes and infrastructure, causing erosion to the river banks.

    A team of researchers from the University of Alaska Southeast, the City and Borough of Juneau, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys and the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center have been studying the outbursts to better understand and predict flooding events.

    "We expect these glacier outburst floods from Suicide Basin to pose a threat over the next decade, hence we plan to continue the monitoring over the years to come, notes lead author Christian Kienholz. 

    The thinning of the ice dam drops about five meters annually.  This lessens the capacity of the basin to store water  Floating ice in the basin is melting away rapidly, providing a larger reservoir to store water behind the dam.



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