New Threat in Himalayas' Glacial Melt: Tsunamis

Villagers could have just minutes' warning

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted May 28, 2013 9:51 AM CDT

(Newser) – Tsunamis can occur far from the ocean, and climate change is increasing the risk of disaster in one of the more unlikely places on Earth: the Himalayas. Lakes are forming more frequently in the area thanks to glacial melting, and when a natural dam breaks—due to erosion, water pressure, or earthquakes—the result is known as a glacial-lake outburst. At least 50 outbursts have occurred in the past century, and the risk of a tsunami is increasing with their frequency, Time reports.

In eastern Nepal's Dudh Koshi region, for instance, most glaciers are retreating at between 30 and 200 feet each year, says an expert, while others are going as fast as 240 feet per year. That's caused 24 new lakes in just the past five years. Of 34 local lakes, at least 10 are seen as dangerous. Elsewhere in Nepal, locals can get text messages warning of impending disaster, but in the event of a glacial-lake outburst, they could have just moments' notice. "All of us would have to run for our lives," says the acting manager of a power station that would send out the warning.

In this file photo, a trekker sits by Birendra Lake in the Manaslu region, part of the Great Himalaya Trail route, in Nepal.
In this file photo, a trekker sits by Birendra Lake in the Manaslu region, part of the Great Himalaya Trail route, in Nepal.   (AP Photo/SNV Nepal, Samir Thapa)
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