"Glaciers are melting, putting the lives of millions around the world at risk
of flash flooding, according to a new study.
Most of those people reside in just four countries – India, Pakistan, Peru, and
China – where glacial lakes are numerous and populations are vulnerable to
Glaciers are 'rivers of ice' that form over millions of years from compressed
snow. They ooze ever so slowly down valleys and sometimes grow so big as to
form ice sheets that extend out into the sea.
But with rising temperatures, glaciers are melting faster than scientists
thought and around half of the world's 215,000 glaciers could vanish by the end
of the century.
The impacts could be felt far, far sooner. In the same way that warm seawater
upwelling from the depths can melt ice sheets from beneath, meltwater that
pools beneath glaciers on land can accelerate ice loss.
Where that runoff accumulates in depressions left by retreating ice, deep lakes
and fast-flowing rivers can form, rising and falling at the whim of ongoing ice
This new study, led by natural hazards researcher Caroline Taylor of Newcastle
University in the UK, estimates around 15 million people live downstream of a
glacial lake that could burst.
Predicting when a glacial lake will actually overflow is very difficult though
without detailed, on-the-ground studies.
Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) also often happen with little advanced
warning, sweeping through townships, killing hundreds if not thousands of
people, and wiping out any infrastructure in their path; a path of destruction
that can stretch for over 120 kilometers (74.5 miles).
So Taylor and colleagues assessed the risk glacial lakes globally pose to
people who live below them, to catalyze targeted risk management efforts to
help those most in danger."
Via Rixty Dixet.
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics