Researchers discover 5,000 lakes in Himalaya Mountains are at risk of flooding because glaciers are melting from global warming and weakening their natural barriers
- Simulations of Himalayan lakes revealed the effects of global warming
- Experts found that melting glaciers will weaken the lakes’ natural barriers
- This will cause flooding downriver and devastated villages at the bottom
Researchers warn that thousands of lakes in the Himalayas could cause massive flooding downriver as a result of global warming.
The team created simulations and found the lake’s levees could soon burst, as the ice is melting and slowly breaking these barriers of loose rock and dirt.
The models showed that approximately 5,000 lakes in the Asian mountain range are unstable due to levee weakness, which could result in ‘glacier lake outburst floods’.
The study was conducted by three researchers with the University of Potsdam, who ran 5.4 billion simulations based on lake models that were created using topographic and satellite data.
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Experts warn that thousands of lakes in the Himalayas could cause massive flooding downriver as a result of global warming . The team created simulations and found the lake’s levees could soon burst, as the ice is melting and slowly breaking these barriers of loose rock and dirt
They found 5,000 lakes in the Himalayas are unstable due to weak levees, or moraines, which are nothing but loose rock and dirt held together by glaciers.
If these barriers break, the lakes will cause massive downstream flooding and could be devastating for those living at the bottom of the mountain.
Not only did they determine 5,000 lakes could soon rush down to the valley, the researchers warn that these lakes also have the largest volume of water.
They also found that risks of flooding due to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) is three times higher in the eastern parts of the Himalayas.
Following this shocking discovery, the three experts also noted that previous studies have shown that up to two-thirds of Himalayan glaciers are going to disappear in the next decade, indicating that a lot of water buildup in lakes is going to pose a serious threat to those living downstream.
They found 5,000 lakes in the Himalayas are unstable due to weak levees, or moraines, which are nothing but loose rock and dirt held together by glaciers. If these barriers break, the lakes will cause massive downstream flooding and could be devastating for those living at the bottom of the mountain
‘Flood peaks from GLOFs mostly attenuate within Himalayan headwaters, but can rival monsoon-fed discharges in major rivers hundreds to thousands of kilometers downstream,’ reads the paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
‘Projections of future hazard from meteorological floods need to account for the extreme runoffs during lake outbursts, given the increasing trends in population, infrastructure, and hydropower projects in Himalayan headwaters.’
A separate study conducted in June by a team at Columbia University found that the melting of glaciers in the Himalayas has doubled over the last two decades because of global warming.
HOW DOES GLACIERS MELTING EFFECT THE WORLD?
As greenhouse gas emissions increase and cause the Earth to warm up, glaciers across the world in Antarctica and Greenland are melting.
These melting glaciers contribute to rising sea levels which in turn erodes coastlines and puts cities from Shanghai to London at risk of flooding. Although the effect will obviously not be uniform across the world, an analysis of U.S. properties in at-risk areas found that 300,000 homes could be frequently flooded by 2045.
As well as this, melting glaciers will destroy ecosystems in cold areas as animals such as penguins and polar bears struggle to find food and shelter.
Rising temperatures have seen the area lose the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic swimming pools of water every year.
Since the turn of the century, glaciers in the world’s highest mountain range have lost an average of 20 inches (51cm) of ice each year – double the amount between 1975 and 2000.
The study, based on satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan, over 40 years, found that the melting is consistent in time and space, and that rising temperatures are to blame.
Study lead author Joshua Maurer, a PhD candidate at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in the US, said: ‘This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting over this time interval, and why.’
While not specifically calculated in the study, he said the glaciers in the region – described as the Third Pole – may have lost as much as a quarter of their enormous mass over the last four decades.
The effect of climate change on the Himalayas could threaten water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across Asia.