As mountains slide in the U.S., Japan, and Canada, the looming question is: Are we seeing climate change at work? The short answer is: Yes.
A quick check turns up major slides in nine different areas in the past six weeks.
The danger remains high in areas where more heavy rain or unstable weather is expected. Human activity such as logging can trigger slides, but the recent slides are linked to heavy rainfall. Another contributing factor is permafrost degradation due to warming temperatures.
Natural Resources Canada warns:
Climate change, where the projected change involves increased temperature and precipitation and more extreme storms, will probably result in an increase in landslide events.
A joint symposium on landslides (11th International and 2nd North American) had just wrapped up in Banff when the first of these landslides buried 5 miles of an Alaskan glacier. Professor Erik Eberhardt, director of geological engineering at the University of British Columbia, warned that the combination of heavy rains and rapid melting of the snowpack that led to the Johnsons Landing slide will likely happen more frequently because of climate change.
Human activity and natural processes already create a level of instability in mountain areas. It appears the addition of climate change will add to the human, wildlife, and environmental toll of landslides in future.
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