Sea ice pushed onto shore in Golovin, Alaska, from a winter storm.
A geologic hazard is an adverse geologic condition capable of causing damage or loss of property or life. These geologic processes only become hazards when humans get in their way; if there were no people affected, we would find these natural phenomena interesting, but not concerning. Alaska is home to a variety of potential geologic hazards, and some are unique to our high northern latitude.
August 2015 landslide in Sitka, Alaska, resulted in three fatalities and substantial damage to infrastructure.
Common geologic hazards impacting Alaska include flooding and erosion, ground failure, earthquakes, tsunamis, and those associated with active volcanoes. Cryospheric hazards—hazards relating to the frozen regions on the Earth's surface where water is in solid form, (i.e. sea ice, lake ice, river ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, ice sheets, and permafrost)—are significant, especially in the northern and alpine regions of the state. Because of its cold-adapted features and rapid warming, climate change impacts on Alaska are particularly pronounced.
Here at the Alaska Division of Geological & Geophysical Surveys, the Geologic Hazards section determines the potential geologic hazards to buildings, roads, bridges, and other installations and structures. We collect, analyze, and compile geologic data useful for hazard risk-mitigation purposes. We also advise other DNR divisions and state agencies regarding potential hazard risks to proposed developments and land disposals.
In many areas of the state, Alaska lacks the fundamental geologic data needed to guide the proper development and implementation of building codes, land-use zoning, right-of-way siting, and contingency planning for natural hazards events. Our work addresses these issues through a variety of specific programs listed below: