We evaluate the mean escape time of overdamped particles over potential barriers in short-correlated quenched Gaussian disorder potentials in one dimension at low temperature. The thermally activated escape is very sensitive to the form of the tail of the potential barrier probability distribution. We evaluate this tail by using the optimal fluctuation method. For monotone decreasing autocovariances, we reproduce the tail obtained by Lopatin and Vinokur (2001). However, for nonmonotonic autocovariances of the disorder potential which exhibit negative autocorrelations, we show that the tail is higher. This leads to an exponential increase of the mean escape time. The transition between the two regimes has the character of a first-order transition.
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