At least 14 people have been killed and over 170 others are missing after a glacial outburst triggered avalanche and floods in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli. The floods occurred in in the Alaknanda and Dhauliganga rivers on Sunday morning. The natural calamity comes as a grim reminder of the 2013 Kedarnath floods that caused widespread damage in the ecologically fragile Himalayan region.
While the 2013 Kedarnath floods were triggered by heavy downpour, the flooding on Sunday morning happened on a sunny day, hence making the rescue operations comparatively easy. The floods were triggered by an glacial outburst.
The disaster in Uttarakhand has brought to fore the dangers of climate change and the new disasters that are awaiting the world. Industrialist Anand Mahindra was one of the first people on Internet to say that how this disaster and the term ‘glacial burst’ is a new one and how the world faces new dangers in the days to come owing to climate change.
But what are glacial outbursts?
Known as Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), these floods occur when a dam containing the glacial lake fails due to excessive water pressure, erosion, avalanche, etc. So, typically the flooding occurs due to massive displacement of water in a glacial lake owing to collapse of huge glacial chunk adjacent to it.
Glaciers are large bodies of dense, moving ice and is formed over the years due to the accumulation of snow over the years and even centuries. When a glacier retreats, the weight of the accumulated ice leaves behind a crator in the ground and gets filled up with water, hence forming a lake. This is known as a moraine or glacial till and is contains debris and buried ice.
As the glacier retreats, which can be attributed to its melting due to rise in temperature, the glacial till weakens with rising water level. As a result,the till crumbles with the pressure of rising water level and triggers massive flooding.
A similar flooding had happened in Ladkah in August 2014. The glacial lake outburst flood had devastated the village Gya.
The glacial outburst is being seen as yet another danger of the climate change that lurks over the planet. These foods happen instantly, and hardly leave any room for warning or preparedness. Communities living in the flood path can be at the receiving end in such situations.