With its scenic location—close to glaciers and a popular beach—the state estimates that during peak tourism season, up to 500 people could be in the area at any given time. “We’re at a pivotal point in the timeline of the Arctic,” he said at a recent convention of the Alaska Federation of Natives, many of whose members reside in remote villages scattered throughout the northern region. Leave the area. The Coast Guard has long complained that its lone pair of aging icebreakers are struggling to stay in service but may now have the opportunity to build six new ones. As Russia has ramped up its presence in the region, U.S. officials have accelerated their own efforts. The warnings, coming in a mixture of Russian and accented English from a plane buzzing overhead, grew more specific and more urgent. Such events are “worth worrying about regardless of climate change,” Higman says. The water then rolled up the bay in a wave that was still about 75 feet high when it reached the mouth, swamping several fishing boats and killing two people. Seiches, a sloshing of water back and forth in a small body of water, were observed as far away as Louisiana, where a number of fishing boats sunk in a harbor. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake was followed by three colossal waves, each more than 25 feet tall, that crushed waterfront infrastructure, lifting and twisting rail lines and dragging them back to sea. As the glacier retreated, so did the slope’s support system—dragging the rock face downward toward the ocean, leaving a distinct, zig-zagging indentation in the hillside. An Unorthodox Tsunami Warning Has Put This Alaska City on Edge ... inn, open-air eateries, and companies offering tours by boat, jet ski, or kayak. With tons of rock and rubble precariously perched high above a nearby fjord, ready to crash into the sea, the town’s present is shaped by both its past and its preparations for an uncertain future. This destabilization is being driven by climate change. Tucked against glacier-capped mountains, the Begich Towers loom over the former secret military port of Whittier, Alaska; more than 80 percent of the small town’s residents live in these Cold War–era barracks. There are presently 20 boats for sale in Alaska listed on Boat Trader. Two others on a nearby fishing boat did not. Jets in Alaska scrambled repeatedly this year to intercept Russian aircraft moving toward U.S. airspace. U.S. territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles from the nation’s shores, but commercial vessels operate even farther within the U.S. exclusive economic zone, a territory stretching some 200 miles offshore in which the country can harvest fish or natural resources without foreign competition but cannot prohibit the passage of international vessels. On the ship Blue North, commands from a Russian plane led Capt. “It was frightening, to say the least,” Captain Anderson said. In fact, Lituya Bay is the only secure anchorage along more than 100 miles of Gulf of Alaska coast from just north of Cape Spencer to Yakutat. Coast Guard officials said Russia had notified the U.S. government that part of its exercise would include a portion of the fishing zone. Tim Thomas, a U.S. captain on the fishing vessel Northern Jaeger, encountered the Russian activities on Aug. 26 when his ship was operating more than 20 nautical miles inside the U.S. economic zone. This summer, Russia’s military operated in the Bering Sea, home to America’s largest fishery, where boats haul up pots crawling with red king crab, and trawlers dump nets filled with 200 tons of pollock onto their decks. ... Tsunami warnings were issued for Alaska … Waves could reach 10 meters in the nearby town of Whittier. Detecting and tracking unstable slopes can give local governments time to install warning systems, so scientists are working to identify unstable land; they’re focusing on monitoring landslides near communities in southeast and south-central Alaska.
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