A recent tumultuous flood surge that swept through the capital of Alaska left a trail of destruction in its wake. The cause of this furious flood was captured on camera by a government installation situated in the mountains above.
In a world grappling with the consequences of a warming planet that has led to the melting and receding of glaciers, an intriguing phenomenon often emerges. Glacial lakes, formed by dams of ice, can suddenly rupture, leading to an event known as a glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF). One notable example is the “Suicide Basin,” a section of Alaska’s renowned but swiftly diminishing Mendenhall Glacier, which has been experiencing such outbursts since 2011.
This year, however, witnessed an unprecedented intensity in the discharge, with the majority of the lake cascading forth on August 5th. The repercussions downstream were profound, as the Mendenhall River swelled to reach its highest recorded level. The raging river swiftly transformed into an emergency situation, forcefully engulfing homes and structures, and pulling them into its currents.
The compelling and brief footage, filmed by a camera maintained by the U.S. Geological Survey above Suicide Basin, documents the rapid drainage of the glacial lake, characterized by its icy fragments. The timelapse, spanning from May 18 to early August 2023, portrays the lake’s gradual filling followed by its abrupt and substantial decline.
In a subsequent drone video, the aftermath comes into focus, revealing the devastation left behind by collapsed structures, alongside some that still teeter perilously close to the river’s edge.
Alaska, much like its broader Arctic counterparts, is undergoing profound and rapid environmental transformations. Despite the enduring chill that blankets the region for a substantial portion of the year due to limited sunlight exposure compared to lower-latitude areas, Alaska stands as a poignant example of the global climate crisis. The U.S. Department of Agriculture underscores this, pointing out that “Alaska is at the forefront of climate change.” The state’s northern latitude and the seasonal ebb and flow of sea ice have resulted in a warming rate that surpasses the global average by two to three times.
This accelerating transformation has dire implications, including the amplification of heatwaves and a heightened susceptibility to catastrophic occurrences like extreme wildfires and flooding. As the landscape shifts, it becomes a stark reminder of the urgent need for global environmental stewardship.
- What caused the recent flood surge in Alaska’s capital? The recent flood surge in Alaska’s capital was triggered by a glacier lake outburst flood (GLOF), a phenomenon where glacial dams suddenly rupture, releasing a torrent of water.
- What is “Suicide Basin”? “Suicide Basin” is a section of Alaska’s Mendenhall Glacier known for experiencing glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) since 2011.
- How was the glacial outburst captured on camera? The glacial outburst was captured by a U.S. Geological Survey camera positioned above Suicide Basin. The footage showcases the rapid drainage of the glacial lake during the outburst.
- How has Alaska’s climate been changing? Alaska’s climate is rapidly changing due to its northern latitude and the seasonal fluctuations in sea ice. The state is warming at a rate two to three times higher than the global average, resulting in severe heatwaves and increased risks of wildfires and floods.
- What is the significance of Alaska’s environmental changes? Alaska serves as a poignant example of the impact of climate change. Despite its enduring cold climate, the state’s warming rate and its consequences, such as extreme weather events, underscore the urgency of addressing global environmental challenges.