New research reveals global dangers of glacial flooding

As rising temperatures shrink glaciers, melt water can collect to form lakes nearby which could put about 15 million people in high mountains at risk of glacial lake outburst floods, according to a study on Wednesday.

These lakes are a significant natural hazard for people living downstream, because outburst floods can occur suddenly with the failure of a natural dam, said a new research published in Nature by New Zealand and international researchers.

The study has found that those living in High Mountains Asia and the Andes are the most exposed to this danger, and the areas with dense population and less resources to cope are most at risk, Xinhua news agency reported.

Glacial lake outburst floods can happen without warning when a natural dam fails, which requires urgent attention to minimise future loss of life, said University of Canterbury School of Earth and Environment Senior Lecturer, Thomas Robinson.

Since 1990 the number and size of glacial lakes has grown rapidly and currently 15 million people globally are exposed to impacts from potential glacial lake outburst floods, he said.

“People in High Mountains Asia are most exposed and on average live closest to glacial lakes, with about 1 million people living within 10 km of a glacial lake,” he added.

Robinson said it is important to work closely with the exposed communities identified in the study to prevent major disasters.




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