Project summary

Negative glacier mass balance due to climate change has resulted in the thinning and backwasting of glaciers all over the world during the 20th and 21st centuries. Periods of glacier retreat are typically associated with the formation of glacial lakes as newly exposed depressions in the bedrock are filled with meltwater or lakes are located behind moraine dams. The flanks of recently deglaciated mountain valleys suffer from glacier debuttressing and thawing of the permafrost (Haeberli et al., 2017) and are prone to mass movements that accumulate on the valley bottom and often effectively dam up glacier streams. The volumes of water accumulating in glacial lakes may be suddenly and catastrophically released due to various triggering events, such as avalanches or rockfalls, flooding from upstream lakes, piping, earthquakes, and so on (Clague & Evans, 2000). After which, a glacial lake outburst flood (commonly abbreviated to GLOF) is formed. The bulk of the GLOF usually sweeps through the down valley reaches and destroys any human presence either by the force of the flood or by the considerable deposition of debris. Several studies have focused on the geomorphologic aspect of GLOFs as important erosion and transportation agents (Vilímek et al., 2015). The identification of potentially dangerous glacial lakes plays an essential role in the management of GLOF risk.

This identification may be split into three stages (Frey et al., 2010). Initially, a lake inventory is created using the automated classification of satellite imagery. Then, researchers apply an assessment method to identify any potentially dangerous lakes. Finally, the selected set of lakes is analysed with the aid of high-resolution data as well as field measurements, where possible.

Selected publications

Clague J.J., Evans S.G. (2000): A review of catastrophic drainage of moraine-dammed lakes in British Columbia. Quat. Sci. Rev. 19, 1763-1783.

Frey H., Haeberli W., Linsbauer A., Huggel C., Paul F. (2010): A multi-level strategy for anticipating future glacier lake formation and associated hazard potentials. Nat. Hazard Earth Syst. Sci. 10, 339-352.

Haeberli W., Schaub Y., Huggel C. (2017): Increasing risks related to landslides from degrading permafrost into new lakes in de-glaciating mountain ranges. Geomorphology 293, 405-417.

Vilímek V., Klimeš J., Emmer A., Benešová M. (2015): Geomorphologic impacts of the glacial lake outburst flood from Lake No. 513 (Peru). Environ. Earth Sci. 73, 5233-5244.

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