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NASA Captures Massive Alaska Landslide; Could Be World's Largest Since 2010

By Sean Breslin
Published: February 26, 2014
Alaska Landslide

These images provided by NASA show a before-and-after look at the area affected by a Feb. 16 landslide in southeastern Alaska.

An enormous landslide near Mount La Perouse in southeastern Alaska has been captured in a pair of before-and-after photos by NASA, which can be viewed in the animated image above.

According to a NASA report, preliminary estimates suggest the landslide moved more than 68 million metric tons of material, which would make it the biggest landslide on Earth since 2010.

(MORE: Unexploded Bombs Wash Up on Beaches Following Floods)

The sediment stretched more than four miles down the mountain, and the slide was triggered on a near-vertical mountain face 9,200 feet high, Columbia University seismologist Colin Stark told NASA's Earth Observatory.

Because earthquake monitors often can't detect landslides, Stark used the Global Centroid-Moment-Tensor Project to identify the waves produced by the slide and start looking for exactly where it occurred. The Global CMT tool narrowed the location down to a 10-square-mile area in southeastern Alaska, NASA reported, and a helicopter pilot spotted the landslide a few days later.

Landsat 8 passed over the affected area on Feb. 23 to get the follow-up shot of the post-slide landscape from space.

Below: Google Maps shows the exact location of the landslide

MORE: Alaskan Glaciers, Before and After

Muir Glacier and Inlet (1895)

Muir Glacier and Inlet (1895)

In the photo above, the west shoreline of Muir Inlet in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve is shown as it appeared in 1895. Notice the lack of vegetation on the slopes of the mountains, and the glacier that stands more than 300 feet high. See the glacier as it looked in 2005 on the next page. (USGS/Bruce Molnia)

  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (1895)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (2005)
  • Plateau Glacier (1961)
  • Plateau Glacier (2003)
  • Bear Glacier (1920s)
  • Bear Glacier (2005)
  • Northwestern Glacier (1920s-1940s)
  • Northwestern Glacier (2005)
  • Northwestern Glacier (1909)
  • Northwestern Glacier (2004)
  • Pedersen Glacier (1920s-1940s)
  • Pedersen Glacier (2005)
  • Pedersen Glacier (1909)
  • Pedersen Glacier (2005)
  • Reid Glacier (1899)
  • Reid Glacier (2003)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (1890)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (2005)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (1896)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (2005)
  • Yale Glacier (1937)
  • Yale Glacier (2006)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (1880s-1890s)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (2005)
  • Muir Glacier (1941)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (1950)
  • Muir Glacier and Inlet (2004)
  • Carroll Glacier (1906)
  • Carroll Glacier (2004)
  • Muir Inlet (1976)
  • Muir Inlet (2003)
  • McCarty Glacier (1909)
  • McCarty Glacier (2004)
  • McCarty Glacier (1909)
  • McCarty Glacier (2004)
  • Muir and Adams Glaciers (1899)
  • Muir and Adams Glaciers (2003)
  • Yalik Glacier (1909)
  • Yalik Glacier (2004)
  • Denali National Park (1919)
  • Denali National Park (2004)
  • Northwestern Glacier (1920s-1940s)
  • Northwestern Glacier (2005)
  • Toboggan Glacier (1905)
  • Toboggan Glacier (2008)
  • Muir Inlet (1895)
  • Muir Inlet (2005)

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