Jeff Masters Weather Blog

15 million people at risk globally from glacial lake dam bursts, study finds » Yale Climate Connections

As mountain glaciers melt, they create high-altitude lakes, dammed by rocks or ice. If pressure builds or landslides or ice avalanches occur, that natural dam can break.

Water and debris can then rush down the mountainsides — devastating communities.

Tom Robinson is a senior lecturer in disaster risk and resilience at the University of Canterbury. He says global warming is causing glaciers to melt faster.

“And so there’s more and more water going into these lakes,” he says.

And that water can flood communities. In a recent study, Robinson assessed the risks on a global scale.

The researchers found that about 15 million people are at risk. And more than half of them live in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Peru, and China.

So Robinson urges communities to prepare. He says engineering solutions, like installing sluicing gates or lowering the lake levels, could help protect people. 

And he says everyone can do their part by reducing global warming.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media

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