, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 121-140

Geologic and hydrologic hazards in glacierized basins in North America resulting from 19th and 20th century global warming

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Abstract

Alpine glacier retreat resulting from global warming since the close of the Little Ice Age in the 19th and 20th centuries has increased the risk and incidence of some geologic and hydrologic hazards in mountainous alpine regions of North America. Abundant loose debris in recently deglaciated areas at the toe of alpine glaciers provides a ready source of sediment during rainstorms or outburst floods. This sediment can cause debris flows and sedimentation problems in downstream areas. Moraines built during the Little Ice Age can trap and store large volumes of water. These natural dams have no controlled outlets and can fail without warning. Many glacier-dammed lakes have grown in size, while ice dams have shrunk, resulting in greater risks of ice-dam failure. The retreat and thinning of glacier ice has left oversteepened, unstable valley walls and has led to increased incidence of rock and debris avalanches.