Arctic being Reshaped by Climate Change, Causing Thousands of Landslides

Using satellite images, researchers have been able to record a sixty-fold increase in the number of landslides caused by the melting of permafrost on Banks Island in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago over the past three decades.

In 1984, there were about 60 active landslides on the island and by 2013, there were more than 4,000.

The research shows that 85 percent of the new landslides on Banks Island started to form after four particularly hot summers 1998, 2010, 2011 and 2012. The warming caused the uppermost layer of the permafrost to thaw, initiating the landslides.

With global warming and rising temperatures, the researchers predict a further increase in landslides. Conservative estimates suggest there could be as many as 10,000 new landslides per decade on Banks Island.

Since the permafrost thaw can keep growing for decades, the research team calculates that in the future the island alone could be home to a staggering 30,000 active landslides a year.



Photo: “Melt channels” by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center is licensed under CC BY 2.0