Did Climate Change Cause The Uttarakhand Tragedy?

uttarakhand glacier burst1

The rescue operations for the tragic glacier burst which killed 11 and triggered massive flooding in Dhauliganga and Alaknanda Rivers in Uttarakhand causing grave damage to houses and the nearby Rishiganga power project is still underway. Reportedly, over 203 people went missing after the tragedy.

As per the latest reports, the rescue teams have been conducting non-stop operations and have rescued 15 people from the first tunnel using heavy machinery, near Tapovan in Chamoli, whereas rescue operations for the second tunnel is still going on.

A glacial lake burst, a cloud burst or an avalanche, the impact of climate change or “development” — scientists are not sure what triggered the sudden surge of water near Chamoli in Uttarakhand Sunday morning.

The scenario being most talked about was what glaciologists like to call a GLOF, or glacial lake outburst flood. It is a reference to flooding caused downstream due to a breach in a glacial lake.

Retreating glaciers, like several in the Himalayas, usually result in the formation of lakes at their tips, called proglacial lakes, often bound only by sediments and boulders. If the boundaries of these lakes are breached, it can lead to large amounts of water rushing down to nearby streams and rivers, gathering momentum on the way by picking up sediments, rocks and other material, and resulting in flooding downstream.

GLOF events are not unusual, but their impact depends on the size of the proglacial lake that burst, and location. The breach can be caused by several reasons — in this particular case, for instance, an avalanche was reported in the region two days ago.

If GLOF is the cause of the accident, it is one of the major disasters that happened in the region due to climate change.



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