2014 | Grant Amount: $10,000

This funding supports a guest scientist’s work to understand the role of rock fall and glaciers in driving river aggradation. This information is key to predicting future flood risk.

Mount Rainier rivers are experiencing unprecedented aggradation (filling by sediment), increasing flooding hazards. This aggradation is being driven by prodigious amounts of rock fall to glaciers. Over decades, glacier movement dumps this rock into park rivers, and storm flows move the sediment downstream, clogging the river channels and causing them to rise above the surrounding forests and roads. In fact, scientists believe the current White River aggradation—where the river is 16 feet above the road—is a direct result of the large Tahoma Peak rock fall of 1964 finally making its way down the White River.

This funding supports a guest scientist, who uses existing seismic records to estimate the size, timing, and location of past rock falls to calculate the amount of rock already on the glaciers, poised to enter park rivers. Knowing the amount of rock currently ‘in play’ will allow park managers to estimate with greater certainty the amount and location of future aggradation. This will significantly improve park transportation planning and flood protection strategies.