13 Oct 2015
Rajeev Issar, Policy Specialist, Disaster & Climate Risk Governance, UNDP
Tsho Rolpa Glacial Lake in Gaurishankar VDC, Dolakha district, Nepal. Photo: Deepak KC/UNDP Nepal
In this blog series, UNDP experts and practitioners share their perspective on issues of climate change, in the lead up to COP21 climate conference in December.
Golf, yes. But GLOF? What is that?
The increasingly apparent impacts of climate change have introduced this new term—an abbreviation for “glacial lake outburst flood”—to the world’s vocabulary.
When glaciers melt, they sometimes form lakes on mountaintops. The water in these glacial lakes accumulates behind loose “dams” made of ice, sand, pebbles and ice residue. But these dams are inherently unstable and avalanches, falling boulders, earthquakes, or even simply the accumulation of too much water can unleash sudden, potentially disastrous floods in nearby communities.
GLOFs come up often for those of us who work on disaster and climate risk management in South Asia. They are becoming increasingly common, and can have devastating impacts on lives, livelihoods, and mountain ecosystems, as well as on critical assets and infrastructure such as roads or hospitals.
Satellite imagery has shown that, due to the melting of Himalayan glaciers at the rate of 30-60 meters per decade, existing glacial lakes have been expanding while new glacial lakes are being formed at a disconcertingly fast rate. A study of the recorded incidents …