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Increasing glacial lake outburst flood hazard in response to surge glaciers in the Karakoram

Increasing glacial lake outburst flood hazard in response to surge glaciers in the Karakoram
Increasing glacial lake outburst flood hazard in response to surge glaciers in the Karakoram
Unlike glaciers in other parts of the world, Karakoram glaciers seem to be stable or gaining in mass in response to global climate change, a phenomenon known as ‘the Karakoram anomaly’. Many of the glaciers experience irregular, frequent, and sudden advances (surges) that pose an increasing threat of ice dam lake formation and subsequent outburst flooding throughout the region. In this study, we document 179 glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) that occurred from 1533 to 2020 in five major valleys. Sixty-four of the events took place after 1970, and 37 of these had remote sensing imagery that covered the GLOF formation to breaching sequence. Thirty-six glaciers were associated with GLOFS due to ice-front advance building ice barriers in rivers. The Kayger and Khurdopin glaciers are the most hazardous examples, being responsible for 31.8% of major GLOFs in the entire Karakoram. Using a cross-correlation feature-tracking technique on remote sensing imagery, we analyzed ten surge glaciers and documented six surge events from 1990 to 2019. Results show periodic surge cycles for the Khurdopin, Kyager, Shishper, and Chilinji glaciers of c. 15-20 years, with a surge velocity in the mid-2010s higher than that of the late 1990s for all studied glaciers. The higher velocity of a glacier increases the risk of flooding downstream of the terminus because the transfer of a huge ice mass towards the terminus during the surge is a key factor for formation and reformation of series of ice-dammed lakes, thus determining the magnitude and frequency of outburst flood events. The response of Karakorum glaciers to global warming and climate forcing, comprising a continuum of glacier mass gain, ice thinning and ice advance, has resulted in lake formation and ice dam failures. We predict the frequency of GLOFs will increase in the future. These findings support the increasing anomalous behavior of glaciers in the Karakoram region. To synthesize the detailed observations, a conceptual model is presented of ice-dammed lake formation and GLOF initiation in response to glacier surging.
Ice-dammed lake, Surge glacier, Glacier velocity, Glacial lake outburst flood, Remote sensing, Cross-correlation Feature Tracking
0012-8252
Bazai, Nazir Ahmed
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Cui, Peng
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Carling, Paul
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Wang, Hao
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Hassan, Javed
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Liu, Dingzhu
d6009470-928b-4f91-893f-ff85ccc90d97
Zhang, Guotao
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Science, Chinese Academy
9315dd81-fa48-4f5c-ac18-26038e477f0a
Bazai, Nazir Ahmed
e2a2ddfe-8d86-4b44-9d1d-433098397717
Cui, Peng
6aa87a0d-3682-44b8-9c9f-1510e5fcebda
Carling, Paul
8d252dd9-3c88-4803-81cc-c2ec4c6fa687
Wang, Hao
d6cd6bc1-45b7-43a8-92de-9b8dcae4d1c4
Hassan, Javed
7167c7b1-0a7a-42be-b25c-8dc1186cdad5
Liu, Dingzhu
d6009470-928b-4f91-893f-ff85ccc90d97
Zhang, Guotao
ff6d98b6-d4a6-4b6d-a105-f57fb640e2c8
Science, Chinese Academy
9315dd81-fa48-4f5c-ac18-26038e477f0a

Bazai, Nazir Ahmed, Cui, Peng, Carling, Paul, Wang, Hao, Hassan, Javed, Liu, Dingzhu, Zhang, Guotao and Science, Chinese Academy (2021) Increasing glacial lake outburst flood hazard in response to surge glaciers in the Karakoram. Earth-Science Reviews, [103432]. (doi:10.1016/j.earscirev.2020.103432).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Unlike glaciers in other parts of the world, Karakoram glaciers seem to be stable or gaining in mass in response to global climate change, a phenomenon known as ‘the Karakoram anomaly’. Many of the glaciers experience irregular, frequent, and sudden advances (surges) that pose an increasing threat of ice dam lake formation and subsequent outburst flooding throughout the region. In this study, we document 179 glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) that occurred from 1533 to 2020 in five major valleys. Sixty-four of the events took place after 1970, and 37 of these had remote sensing imagery that covered the GLOF formation to breaching sequence. Thirty-six glaciers were associated with GLOFS due to ice-front advance building ice barriers in rivers. The Kayger and Khurdopin glaciers are the most hazardous examples, being responsible for 31.8% of major GLOFs in the entire Karakoram. Using a cross-correlation feature-tracking technique on remote sensing imagery, we analyzed ten surge glaciers and documented six surge events from 1990 to 2019. Results show periodic surge cycles for the Khurdopin, Kyager, Shishper, and Chilinji glaciers of c. 15-20 years, with a surge velocity in the mid-2010s higher than that of the late 1990s for all studied glaciers. The higher velocity of a glacier increases the risk of flooding downstream of the terminus because the transfer of a huge ice mass towards the terminus during the surge is a key factor for formation and reformation of series of ice-dammed lakes, thus determining the magnitude and frequency of outburst flood events. The response of Karakorum glaciers to global warming and climate forcing, comprising a continuum of glacier mass gain, ice thinning and ice advance, has resulted in lake formation and ice dam failures. We predict the frequency of GLOFs will increase in the future. These findings support the increasing anomalous behavior of glaciers in the Karakoram region. To synthesize the detailed observations, a conceptual model is presented of ice-dammed lake formation and GLOF initiation in response to glacier surging.

Text
Bazai et al 2021 - Accepted Manuscript
Restricted to Repository staff only until 4 November 2022.
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More information

Accepted/In Press date: 31 October 2020
e-pub ahead of print date: 4 November 2020
Published date: 1 January 2021
Keywords: Ice-dammed lake, Surge glacier, Glacier velocity, Glacial lake outburst flood, Remote sensing, Cross-correlation Feature Tracking

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 445252
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/445252
ISSN: 0012-8252
PURE UUID: 0a53a61a-c7f1-46f3-947e-df53169f4e1e

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 26 Nov 2020 17:31
Last modified: 26 Nov 2020 17:31

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Contributors

Author: Nazir Ahmed Bazai
Author: Peng Cui
Author: Paul Carling
Author: Hao Wang
Author: Javed Hassan
Author: Dingzhu Liu
Author: Guotao Zhang
Author: Chinese Academy Science

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