15 million people live under threat of glacial floods, researchers find
About 15 million people across the planet live in regions that could be affected by flooding caused by melting glaciers – as reported by the press service of the New Zealand University of Canterbury, TASS reports
According to Thomas Robinson, one of the authors of the study and a university staff member, climate change is causing the gradual melting of glaciers and the formation of glacial lakes. As their volume grows and soil erosion increases, the threat of the so-called glacial lake outburst – the release of water as a result of the destruction of natural barriers, which can occur suddenly and lead to serious destruction.
“Our study is novel because it has identified populations that live in the path of possible water flows from these lakes and shows how vulnerable they are. Since 1990, the number and size of glacial lakes have been growing rapidly. We have shown that 15 million people may currently be affected by glacial lake outburst floods,” Robinson said.
About half of these vulnerable populations are found in four countries: India, Pakistan, China and Peru. At the same time, if the most serious level of flood threat was detected in the first three countries, then the South American Andes, according to scientists, are of greater concern, since they are less studied. Moreover, if in the Himalayas and other mountain systems of Asia the number of glacial lakes has increased by 37 percent since 1990, then in the Andes it has increased by 93 percent.
As Robinson notes, the authors of the study hope that it will help governments and international organisations begin to take preventive measures to protect the most vulnerable groups of the population.