Risk from glacial lake floods

Syllabus: GS-III, Subject: Environment, Ecology and Disaster Management, Topic: Disasters, Issue: Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs)

Context: Uttarakhand government has constituted two teams of experts to evaluate the risk posed by potentially hazardous glacial lakes in the region.

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs):

  • Refers to sudden discharge of water from glacial lakes caused by glacier melting.
  • Melting glaciers leave depressions filled with meltwater, forming potentially hazardous lakes.
  • Receding glaciers enlarge these lakes, which are often dammed by unstable ice or sediment.
  • GLOFs occur when boundaries of these lakes break, leading to rapid water discharge.


  • Glacial calving, avalanches, or landslides destabilizing lake boundaries.


  • Release large volumes of water, sediment, and debris downstream, causing floods and destruction.
  • Submerge valleys, destroy infrastructure, and cause loss of life and livelihoods.
+1 advantage for mains (Reports):

·        A study published in Nature in 2023 identified Southeastern Tibet and the China-Nepal border area as particularly susceptible to more frequent GLOFs since 1980.

·        India and Pakistan face high GLOF danger due to their large populations and vulnerability, despite not having as many glacial lakes as other regions.

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