Numerical modelling of Himalayan glacial lake outburst floods

Lead Research Organisation: Aberystwyth University
Department Name: Inst of Geography and Earth Sciences


As Himalayan glaciers recede in response to climate amelioration, the size and number of moraine-dammed supraglacial and proglacial lakes is increasing dramatically. These lakes are currently developing behind unstable ice-cored moraines and have the potential to fail catastrophically, producing devastating glacial lake outburst floods (known as GLOFs). Previous Himalayan GLOFs have had disastrous consequences for downstream communities and economic infrastructure. There is an urgent need for assessment of the factors controlling these floods and their potential downstream impacts. This studentship will focus on GLOFs in the Nepal Himalaya, an area that has suffered a number of catastrophic floods in the recent past, and which faces increasing threats from GLOFs during glacier recession. The overall aim of this project is to link moraine-dam failure scenarios to their downstream impacts by calculating palaeoflood volumes and discharges for a number of former GLOFs in Nepal. The student will develop an empirically constrained numerical palaeoflood model that can be used to calculate the possible magnitude of floods from projected future moraine-dam failures. The project therefore has direct socio-economic benefits because it will produce information essential to the assessment and mitigation of Himalayan glacier hazards. This information is required by local communities, Government departments and institutions in Nepal and elsewhere, hydropower developers, funding agencies such as The World Bank and OECD, and the international donor aid departments of governments. The project involves strong collaboration between staff in the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University with experience in glaciology, glacial geomorphology, sedimentology and hydrological modelling and staff in the CASE industrial partner at Reynolds Geosciences (RGSL) with expertise in Himalayan glacier hazard assessment and mitigation. The student will have experienced supervisors in both institutions and will spend several extended periods (at least one month in each year of the project) working in the company.


10 25 50