Landslip in Norway, Are Landslides a Climate Change Consequence?

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On Wednesday, 3 June 202O, an incredible landslide was caught on video at Kråknes in Alta, in the north of Norway (Petley, 2020). It has swept away and damaged eight houses and a few cabins. Fortunately, the incident did not harm anyone, as all people had already left the area (Nikel, 2020).

“The slide was 650 meters (2,133 feet) wide and 150 meters (492 feet) deep.” According to Anders Bjordal, a Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate engineer, this landslide of this scale seldom happens in Norway, maybe every one or two years (Kennedy & Woodyatt, 2020).

This event is ascertained to be a quick clay landslide. One of the owners of the houses, Jan Egil Bakkeby, says that he saw a tension crack downslope from their cabin on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday, it rained just before the landslide occurred (Petley, 2020).

Links Between Landslides and Climate Change

Two studies discuss the relationship between changes in precipitation patterns caused by climate change and landslides.

First, is the study by Rianna, G. and others that investigated several cases of landslides and its connection to rainfall activity. Using a climate model, they can predict the long-term behaviour of landslides (Rianna, Zollo, Tommas, et al., 2014).

Second, the study of Gariano and Guzzeti on climate change effects on the stability of natural and engineered slopes resulting in landslides. Most of the papers examined in the study show a causal relationship between landslides and climate change. Climate drivers like changes in temperatures, rainfall patterns, wind, and weather systems can affect the stability conditions of slopes that can lead to landslides (Gariano & Guzzetti, 2016).

An article from Inside Climate News, says that “as more permafrost thaws and water seeps deeper into mountains crags, extreme storms can trigger dangerous landslides and rockfalls.”  And it is not just that the planet is heating up but that a “denser blanket of GHG is sending warmer air and water deeper into the planet’s rocky bones.”  Rocks and soils that used to stay frozen for most of the year are thawing and eroding faster, which increases the chance for mudslides with rain assisting it in motion, says Ketil Isaksen, a climate scientist from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute (Berwyn, 2018).

Thomas Thaler, an Austrian hydrologist, says that it is crucial to know climate change’s impact on rainfall because it has the most influence on landslides and debris flow. He adds that climate change can not only increase the magnitude but frequency of these events (Berwyn, 2018).

Sources citations:

Nikel, D. (2020, June 3). Major Landslide Destroys 8 Homes In Northern Norway. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/davidnikel/2020/06/03/major-landslide-destroys-8-homes-in-northern-norway/#5b82104f4419

Landslide sweeps Norway homes into the sea. (2020, June 5). [Video file]. The Telegraph. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1L7YHO4Uq-M

Gariano, S. & Guzzetti, F. (2016, November). Landslides in a changing climate. Earth-Science Reviews. Vol 162, p227-252. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.earscirev.2016.08.011 

Merzdorf, J. (2020, February 11). Climate Change Could Trigger More Landslides in High Mountain Asia. NASA Global Climate Change. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov/news/2951/climate-change-could-trigger-more-landslides-in-high-mountain-asia/

Berwyn, B. (2018, September 26). Global Warming is Destabilizing Mountain Slopes, Creating Landslide Risks. Inside Climate News. Retrieved from https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26092018/climate-change-mountains-landslide-hazard-thawing-permafrost-rockfall-extreme-weather-glaciers-global-warming

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