Abstract

Aniakchak caldera, located on the Alaska Peninsula of southwest Alaska, formerly contained a large lake (estimated volume 3.7 × 109 m3) that rapidly drained as a result of failure of the caldera rim sometime after ca. 3400 yr B.P. The peak discharge of the resulting flood was estimated using three methods: (1) flow-competence equations, (2) step-backwater modeling, and (3) a dam-break model. The results of the dam-break model indicate that the peak discharge at the breach in the caldera rim was at least 7.7 × 104 m3 s−1, and the maximum possible discharge was ≈1.1 × 106 m3 s−1. Flow-competence estimates of discharge, based on the largest boulders transported by the flood, indicate that the peak discharge values, which were a few kilometers downstream of the breach, ranged from 6.4 × 105 to 4.8 × 106 m3 s−1. Similar but less variable results were obtained by step-backwater modeling. Finally, discharge estimates based on regression equations relating peak discharge to the volume and depth of the impounded water, although limited by constraining assumptions, provide results within the range of values determined by the other methods. The discovery and documentation of a flood, caused by the failure of the caldera rim at Aniakchak caldera, underscore the significance and associated hydrologic hazards of potential large floods at other lake-filled calderas.

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