The magnitude 7.8 earthquake of 25 May 2015 and its significant aftershocks leveled parts of Kathmandu and caused more than 8,000 deaths throughout the country. Scientists worry that the seismic activity could also have destabilized the fragile end moraines damming glacial lakes, leading to glacial outburst floods (GLOF). GLOFs can have devastating downstream impacts. 24 GLOFs are known to have occurred in Nepal, mostly in the decades since 1960.
Between June and August, 2015, Alton Byers and a team of U.S. and Nepali scientists climbed to three glacial lakes in Nepal considered most at risk from earthquake damage: Imja, Tsho Rolpa, and Thulagi. The purpose of each expedition was to conduct integrated evaluations of each lake after the massive earthquake of April 2015 and its aftershocks. The evaluations included possible changes in water volume, end moraine stability, lateral moraine stability, seepage, glacial terminus, ice-cored moraines, and increased risk of flooding.
Project partners included USAID, ICIMOD, the Nepal Army, and High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP).
Download the final report of the glacial lake assessment.
Read articles from The Himalayan Times written in response to the research:
- Downstream communities fear glacial lake outburst (31 Aug. 2015)
- Editorial: Real threat (1 Sept. 2015)