Glacial lakes threaten millions with flooding as planet heats up

Source(s)
Guardian, the (UK)

By Neelima Vallangi

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As the planet warms and glaciers recede, meltwater accumulates and forms lakes, often as a result of ice or moraine acting as a dam. Since 1990, the volume, area and number of these glacial lakes has increased by 50% globally. When these lakes become too full there is a risk that they may breach or overflow, releasing huge volumes of water and causing catastrophic flooding.

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One of the parameters that makes a glacial lake potentially dangerous is the size of downstream population that could be exposed to flooding, and that number can range from few hundreds to hundreds of thousands, as in the case of Huaraz city located downstream of Lake Palcacocha in Peru. However, the many factors at play in an outburst flood make it impossible to estimate how many people might be at risk globally.

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Scientists predict an increase in GLOFs starting in the coming decades and extending well into the early 22nd century. Vulnerable countries with populations and infrastructure at risk of floods are now in a race against time to invest in disaster preparedness to avoid catastrophic outcomes in the event of an outburst flood.

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