Alaska Struck By ‘Ice Quake’ Caused By Extreme Heat Wave

Hannah Smith

| Last updated 

Alaska Struck By 'Ice Quake' Caused By Extreme Heat WavePA Images/NASA

An ‘ice quake’ triggered by melting glaciers has been recorded in Alaska, as a deadly heatwave continues to sweep the region.

Seismologists recorded a 2.7 magnitude tremor near the state’s Canadian border, roughly 25 miles east of the capital, Juneau, in the latest sign the heatwave is taking a devastating toll on the natural landscape.

Extreme heat caused a 2.7 magnitude quake (PA Images)PA Images

The record-breaking heatwave has caused hundreds of deaths over the past week in the US Pacific Northwest and  Western Canada, with temperatures in British Columbia reaching a national all-time high of 49.6C – almost 5C higher than the previous Canadian record – on Tuesday, June 29, the BBC reports.

Though temperatures in Alaska have been lower than elsewhere in the region, peaking at 33C, the heatwave is still having huge consequences for the natural environment, as seen by Tuesday’s rare tremor.

An ice quake differs from a regular earthquake, in that it is not caused by tectonic plate activity, but instead by rapidly cooling or heating glaciers leading to shifts below surface level, per Mic. As large chunks of ice break off, the land below it can sometimes rise, causing tremors that are recorded as seismic events.

According to a 2015 academic study, ice quakes are more common in the winter, ‘when the surface temperature undergoes a rapid cooling from above freezing to near subzero,’ but they can also be triggered by rapid melting, as appears to be the case here.

The ice quake is just the latest indication of the destruction being caused by extreme temperatures in the region. Power cables and roads have melted, crops have died and in some places rolling blackouts have been implemented to cope with the unprecedented demand for electricity to run air conditioners.

In British Columbia, almost three times as many deaths were reported between Friday, June 25 and Wednesday, July 1 as expected for the time of year, with the province’s chief coroner saying the increase was likely the result of the extreme heat. The majority of those who have died are believed to be elderly, with hundreds of residents forced to leave their homes to sleep in air-conditioned ‘cooling centres.’

‘I’ve been a police officer for 15 years and I’ve never experienced the volume of sudden deaths that have come in in such a short period of time,’ Vancouver police sergeant Steve Addison said in a statement.

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Topics: News, Alaska, Climate Change, Heatwave


  1. Mic

    There was an "ice quake" in Alaska, thanks to this monstrous heat wave

Hannah Smith
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