Its first flood surge back in 2011 gushed roughly 10 billion gallons of water into the Mendenhall River in only three days, endangering homes and properties along the river that meanders through the city.
With temperatures rising due to climate change, these glacial flood bursts have become prevalent all of the world, so much so that glaciologists have coined the word jökulhlaup (an Icelandic word that means “glacier leap”) to describe the phenomenon.
Although jökulhlaups are happening worldwide, Mendenhall’s flood bursts are particularly alarming because of its proximity to a large city and tourists. Upwards of 400,000 cruise ship tourists visit the glacier each year, while most other glaciers experiencing flood bursts are in complete isolation. Natural Habitat Adventures does offer trips to see glaciers in Alaska, but not the Mendenhall Glacier.
Read this New York Times article to find out what scientists think is causing these flood bursts, and what is being done to predict them in advance to protect the people of Juneau and its tourists.