Growing Flood Risk from Melting Mountain Glaciers Threatens 15 Million People

As the world’s glaciers lost about 332 gigatonnes of ice a year between 2006 and 2016, the number and volume of glacial lakes worldwide have each increased by about 50%. According to a report published in the journal Nature Communications, melting mountain glaciers pose a growing flood risk to around 15 million people globally, with communities in Asia facing the biggest danger.

A Total of 9 Million People Live Near More Than 2,000 Glacial Lakes in Asia

In the high mountains of Asia, over 9 million people live near more than 2,000 glacial lakes. In 2021, more than 100 people were killed in India in an outburst flood in its northern mountains, highlighting the danger posed by these growing lakes. The Dangers of Microplastics in Our Bodies and the Environment.

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Worst Year on Record for Best-Studied Glacier in the Himalayas

The best-studied glacier in the Himalayas, north India’s Chhota Shigri, experienced its worst year on record in 2022. Chhota Shigri lost three times as much mass in 2022 compared with its 2002 to 2022 yearly average. This significant loss of ice will have a profound impact on downstream water availability in the near future.

Himalayan Glaciers Decline as Glacial Lakes Increase

Glacier coverage in the Himalayas shrank by about 11% from 1990 to 2015. During the same time period, Himalayan glacial lakes increased by about 9% in number and 14% in area. Over 200 lakes now pose a very high hazard to Himalayan communities.

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“The impacts are already visible as the glacier is thinning and retreating,” says Farooq Azam, a glaciologist at the Indian Institute of Technology Indore who monitors Chhota Shigri. “The ice is really melting significantly during the last decades – mass loss is accelerating,” says Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist with Graz University of Technology in Austria.

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