The recent evolution and outburst risk of two typical moraine-dammed lakes, Galong and Gangxi, central Chinese Himalaya, are analyzed using topographic maps from 1974 and Landsat satellite imagery acquired in 1988, 2000 and 2014. The datasets show the areas of Galong and Gangxi lakes increasing at rates of 0.45 and 0.34 km2/year during the period 1974–2014, an expansion of 501% and 107%, respectively, in the past 41 years, while the areas of the parent glaciers, Reqiang and Jipucong decreased by 44.22% and 37.76%, respectively. The accelerating retreat of the glaciers not only reflects their generally negative mass balance but is consistent with the rapid expansion of the moraine-dammed lakes. When acted upon by external forces such as earthquakes, heavy rainfall, rapid melting of glaciers and dead ice, and snow/ice/rock avalanches, these lakes can become extremely dangerous, easily forming outburst mudslides, which can potentially spread to the Poiqu river basin and develop into cross-border (China and Nepal) GLOF disasters. Therefore, there is an urgent need to strengthen integrated risk management of glacial lake outburst disasters with multiple objectives and modes.
Volume 129, 2020
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