Are the risks of natural hazards in the Arctic region increasing as a result of regional warming and what are the threats posed to the UK?

The changes observed in the Arctic could lead to an increase in natural hazards in other parts of the world, such as flooding as a result of rising sea levels or more frequent extreme weather patterns due to changing oceanic circulations. While NERC already funds research into threats from many such hazards, the ARP focusses on one particular poorly understood risk: the possibility of large submarine landslides causing a tsunami which could devastate coastal areas in many parts of the northern hemisphere including the UK.

Many submarine slopes in the Arctic are stabilised by the presence of overlying sea ice, or by being frozen. Melting and shrinking of polar ice sheets and glaciers in a warming Arctic could generate seismic activty whilst warming of the ocean waters could thaw submarine methane hydrates, leading to degassing. Either scenarion might induce a submarine sediment slide which could trigger a tsunami to threaten UK. There is historical evidence of such an event triggered by the Storegga slide off the Norwegian coast.

If this support is reduced tsunamis are a risk which needs to be quantified and evaluated both in terms of its reach and potential magnitude and the economic impact such a tsunami could have.

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