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Glaciers

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Despite an economy driven by oil and commercial fishing, Valdez earns the moniker “Little Switzerland” honestly. The city of around 4,000 people rests in a deep fjord beneath the 5,000-foot peaks of the Chugach Mountains, with waterfalls cascading down lush green hillsides at every turn and calm, clear waters lapping along the small boat harbor of Port Valdez.

Melting glaciers may influence earthquake activity. Colliding tectonic plates are the driving force behind the hundreds of earthquakes that happen in Alaska every week, but developing science may add a new ingredient to the recipe for earthquake activity: glacial melting. Just like a trampoline would rebound if a giant ice block was removed, the earth’s crust rebounds when glaciers melt away. The new position of the crust changes how the plates collide, and the removal of a great weight may make it easier for one plate to move the other—potentially allowing an earthquake to occur earlier than it would if the glacier were still there. “…she and her colleagues continue to delve deeper into Alaska’s seismic puzzle in a quest to better understand how and when melting ice may catalyze an earthquake.” Natalia Ruppert, a researcher at the Alaska Earthquake Center, helped study this phenomenon in Alaska’s Icy Bay region.…