The possibility of glacial lakes emptying, which are forming in large numbers in the mountains with global warming, could pose a threat to local populations. As a result of global warming, ice from mountain glaciers is turning into water and accumulating in glacial lakes that now pose a threat to an estimated 15 million people, according to researchers at Newcastle University in Britain.
The number and volume of water in these lakes have increased dramatically since the 1990s, as has the number of people living in the corresponding watersheds.
The danger comes from the fact that the rapid emptying of a glacial lake can flood the downstream part of the lake up to a distance of one hundred and twenty kilometers. Based on the analysis of about 1,090 glacial lake basins worldwide, the number of people living within a radius of fifty kilometers, and the level of development of the regions concerned, the researchers show that in Asia, for example, about ten million people are exposed to the threat of rapid emptying of a glacial lake in the high mountains.
The size of the affected population is explained by the population density in these areas and by the lack of preparation to face such a disaster. The researchers believe that the Andes should also be the subject of a similar study, as this region has identical characteristics, with a population settled near many glacial lakes and ill-prepared to face a sudden flood.
Given the increased risk of this type of natural disaster due to climate change, better identification of the areas concerned would make it possible to better target the actions to be implemented in terms of risk management and would make it possible to reduce the damage that could be suffered by infrastructures, as well as human losses.