By Catherine McGeer •
Published: 27 Oct 2023 • 14:30
Åkernes Mountain, Norway: A ticking time bomb
Image: Shutterstock/ Andrei Armiagov
IN one of the world’s most beautiful villages Geiranger in Norway, a silent threat looms large. Åkernes Mountain, a towering mass of rock that rises above the fjord, is slowly but surely sliding into the water. If it collapses, it could unleash a tsunami of unprecedented proportions, devastating the village and surrounding communities
The danger posed by Åkernes Mountain has been known for decades, but it was only in the 1980s that scientists began to fully understand the scale of the threat. In 1983, a local resident rediscovered the long crack in the mountainside that had been widening for generations. Since then, the crack has continued to grow at an alarming rate, up to 15 centimetres per year.
Today, Åkernes Mountain is one of the most monitored mountains in the world. A network of sensors and webcams tracks every movement, and scientists are constantly developing new ways to predict when a collapse might occur. In the event of a collapse, Norway has a sophisticated early warning system in place. If sensors detect even the slightest movement, sirens will blare and residents will have just minutes to evacuate to safety.
But even the best early warning system can only do so much. If Åkernes Mountain collapses, the resulting tsunami will be devastating. Scientists estimate that a wave of up to 80 meters high could hit Geiranger, wiping out the village and causing widespread damage throughout the region. The Norwegian government is taking steps to mitigate the risk of a catastrophic tsunami. One option is to stabilise the mountainside by drilling drainage holes to remove water that is putting pressure on the rock. However, this is a complex and expensive undertaking, and there is no guarantee that it will be successful. In 2015 Bølgen (The Wave) a Norwegian disaster movie based on the premise of a rock slide from the Åkernes Mountain inundating the town of Geiranger was released.
Climate change is exacerbating the risk of rockfall-induced tsunamis around the world. As the planet warms, glaciers and ice sheets are melting, releasing water that is seeping into rock formations and making them more unstable. Additionally, more extreme weather events, such as heavy rainfall, can trigger landslides. This is adding more water to the system, which is putting even more pressure on Åkernes Mountain. Some might wonder why locals continue to live in this town. Would you stay?
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I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!
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