Melting mountain glaciers threaten floods for 15 million people

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 Melting mountain glaciers threaten 15 million people with floods

The melting of mountain glaciers poses a growing risk of flooding for about 15 million people worldwide, according to a report released Tuesday by researchers, with people in Asia most at risk.

Water from melting glaciers often accumulates in shallow lakes formed by piles of boulders and debris. The risk arises when such a lake overflows, breaking through a natural barrier and sending water down to mountain valleys.

Scientists estimate for the first time how many people worldwide are at risk from these floods, and found that more than half of the vulnerable populations live in India, Pakistan, China and Peru.

The danger is highest, they report in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, when A large number of people live near the glacial lake.

“Any natural disaster becomes a tragedy due to the presence of vulnerable people in the landscape,” — said Stuart Dunning, a physical geographer at the UK's Newcastle University and co-author of the study.

Glacial lake outburst flooding is predicted to worsen as the climate warms.

Collectively, the world's glaciers lost about 332 gigatonnes of ice per year between 2006 and 2016. Since 1990, the number and volume of glacial lakes worldwide have increased by about 50%.

In the highlands of Asia, about 9 million people live near more than 2,000 glacial lakes. In 2021, more than 100 people died in India as a result of flooding in the mountains in the north of the country.

Compared to mountain glaciers in the Alps and North America, such places in Asia are not so well controlled — most of them lack long-term observations of how they have changed over time.

The most studied glacier in the Himalayas is Chhota Shigri in northern India, for which mass balance measurements have been made over 20 years — the difference between how much ice a glacier gains and loses in a year.

In 2022, India suffered from abnormal temperatures, and towards the end of the year, scientists went to the Himalayas to measure the mass of Chhota Shigri.
Their findings showed that the best-studied glacier in the Himalayas experienced its worst year on record; Chhota Shigri lost three times its mass in 2022 compared to the average from 2002 to 2022.

Satellite observations also show that glaciers in the Himalayas are in a state of global decline.

According to a study conducted in July 2022, from 1990 to 2015, the area of ​​glaciers in the Himalayas has decreased by about 11%.
Over In the same period, the Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9% in number and 14% in area. According to a 2022 study, more than 200 lakes pose a very great danger to the inhabitants of the Himalayas.

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