Cooperative Agreement for CESU-affiliated Partner with Colorado Plateau Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit
The USGS is offering a funding opportunity to a CESU partner for research in the influence of paraglacial processes on rock slope stability in Prince William Sound, Alaska. The USGS Landslide Hazards Program (LHP) conducts research on the processes and conditions leading to landslide occurrence. Current efforts of the LHP are focused on identifying the potential for tsunamigenic landslides in southeast Alaska, as these may pose hazards to local communities, recreationalists, shipping traffic, and important natural and cultural resources in the region. Tsunamigenic landslides are possible and potentially increasing in hazard with ongoing deglaciation of tidewater glaciers that currently extend from mountainous ice fields down to sea level. Rock slopes that abut glaciers are subject to paraglacial processes that result from cycles of glaciation and deglaciation and include changes in temperature, water infiltration, and ice buttressing stress. Thus, glaciation cycles can drive changes in the thermal, hydrologic, and mechanical boundary conditions of rock slopes, which can subsequently generate rock mass damage that culminates in failure of the rock slopes abutting glaciers. While the concept of glacial debuttressing is typically invoked to explain the presence of rock slope failures through the loss of a mechanical ice buttressing, it has been shown that the debuttressing framework must be expanded to include coupled thermo-hydro-mechanical (THM) stresses resulting from changing boundary conditions over time, each tied to the changing glacier ice surface position and elevation. We are thus soliciting an opportunity to conduct field-informed and numerically based THM modeling of paraglacial rock slopes to identify why particular rock slopes become critically stressed, such that they experience acceleration and failure in response to removal of even small amounts of ice support. Answering this question will allow the USGS to gain insight as to what concerns the region may face in the future if current worldwide deglaciation trends continue. USGS researchers are already working on this problem and thus, this funding opportunity is naturally cooperative and collaborative in design. This work intends to directly benefit US tax payers through the ability of the USGS to inform its partners (including but not limited to the State of Alaska, the National Tsunami Warning Center, the National Weather Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Army, as well as local tribes and communities located in southeast Alaska) of the potential triggering conditions for tsunamigenic rock slope failures that could lead to inundation of economic, natural, and cultural resources, and disruption to maritime traffic in southeast Alaska.