Uttarakhand flood: Breach of hidden lake under glacier caused flash floods: IISc scientist NewsFunda

BENGALURU: A breach of a hidden lake under the Nanda Devi glacier is a potential reason for the flash flood that hit the Rishi Ganga Valley in Uttarakhand on Sunday morning, said scientists at IISc.

The flash flood took place after a portion of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on February 7, which triggered an avalanche in the Alaknanda river system. The flood washed away hydroelectric stations and trapped more than 100 labourers who are feared dead.

The research behind the finding was led by A V Kulkarni, a distinguished scientist at Divecha Centre For Climate Change (DCCC), Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, who has been working on Himalayan glaciers for the last 45 years (since 1976). He led a group of scientists in this research and found that following an increase in pressure, the hidden lake under the glacier – spread over an area of 25 hectares and with a capacity of 4.5 million cubic meters of water – washed the top layer of the ice and flooded the area. The increase in pressure must have been intensified due to water from a tributary glacier as well.

This is the first time that a flood due to this phenomenon has taken place in the Himalayas according to them.

Climate change is prime reason

Climate change is a fundamental reason behind this unique phenomenon, scientists explained.

A V Kulkarni told TOI that a fundamental reason for the incident is climate change. “Some portions that should have been covered with ice, have been replaced with water. That is why a certain portion of the glacier was washed away,” Kulkarni said.

He said the incident is unique as it took place on a winter, dry day. Generally, flash floods occur in the Himalayas following rainfall or during Summers when the ice melts. He says had this taken place during the monsoon season, the damage would be ten-fold.

Kulkarni says they had found hidden lakes under glacier ice in Sikkim, but not in the Himalayas until this flash flood took place. The scientists were able to understand about the lake under the Nanda Devi Glacier through a tool developed by DCCC, IISc, that maps depression in the bedrock below glacier ice, known as Himalayan Glacier Thickness Mapper (HIGHTHIM).

Kulkarni says the way forward to prevent such mishaps is better interface, communication and synergy between scientists, government, bureaucrats, and the civil society.

News is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Newsfunda

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