Natural Hazards Blog #3

What is the most hazardous area in Alaska?

Southern Alaska comprising the Cook Inlet and nearest communities.

This area is near the Spur, Redoubt, Iliamna, and Augustine volcanoes.   Note these volcanoes are stratovolcanoes due to the convergent margin along Alaska’s southern continental margin.   These volcanoes make for explosive volcanoes that erupt violently.   A recent example is from 2019 last December until this month February.   The Shishaldin volcano on Unimak Island is erupting.   This volcano is under observation and tracking of its ash cloud is being monitored.   Ash clouds from volcanoes disrupt flight travel.   Proximity to multiple volcanoes leads to a higher probability of disruption of flight travel in this area.   Any cursory glance at flights into and out of the state of Alaska places Anchorage as an important air travel center.   Debris flow from local volcanoes also may cause a tsunami.

Geometrically this inlet is deep, but it has a large area of low elevation tidal flats along its margins.   Near Anchorage, the Turnagain Arm and Kinik Arm feature tidal flats near population centers.   Many individuals travel near and on these tidal flats.   Others may also surf the bore tide.   Because of the deep cook inlet, this is the tide rushing back into the drained Cook Inlet.   Individuals commonly become stuck in the mudflats and drown.

Because of the convergent boundary along Alaska’s southern margin, this area also features earthquakes.   The Cook Inlet area features earthquakes commonly at 30-100km deep.   These earthquakes may also lead to a tsunami.   Seismicity in the state of Alaska is on an upward trend of more earthquakes have occurred per year since 2005.   2018 was the most active year and 2019 was the second most active year by the UAF earthquake center statistics.

This area is a large watershed.   As such, much sediment is fed into it.   These sediments are from the Matanuska glacier, Kinik river, little and big Susitna Rivers.   This area is tectonically active and volcanically active.   There are potential complications due to coastal erosion and subsidence from storm surges, tsunami, and or earthquakes.

Other areas in Alaska feature other potential hazards.   Large rivers such as the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim feature seasonal breakup flooding.   Within the state of Alaska remote communities are most often along rivers.   Seasonal changes in weather near bodies of water begin to add potential hazards to local small communities.

This area features many potentially dangerous natural hazards.   These alone are not so dangerous.   What makes this area more hazardous is proximity to people.   This area is also nearest to Anchorage as a travel hub.   The possibility of potential harm to public health is what I feel makes this area the most hazardous in Alaska.

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