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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 10, issue 2 | Copyright
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 10, 339-352, 2010
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-10-339-2010
© Author(s) 2010. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

  22 Feb 2010

22 Feb 2010

A multi-level strategy for anticipating future glacier lake formation and associated hazard potentials

H. Frey, W. Haeberli, A. Linsbauer, C. Huggel, and F. Paul H. Frey et al.
  • Department of Geography, Universtity of Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. In the course of glacier retreat, new glacier lakes can develop. As such lakes can be a source of natural hazards, strategies for predicting future glacier lake formation are important for an early planning of safety measures. In this article, a multi-level strategy for the identification of overdeepened parts of the glacier beds and, hence, sites with potential future lake formation, is presented. At the first two of the four levels of this strategy, glacier bed overdeepenings are estimated qualitatively and over large regions based on a digital elevation model (DEM) and digital glacier outlines. On level 3, more detailed and laborious models are applied for modeling the glacier bed topography over smaller regions; and on level 4, special situations must be investigated in-situ with detailed measurements such as geophysical soundings. The approaches of the strategy are validated using historical data from Trift Glacier, where a lake formed over the past decade. Scenarios of future glacier lakes are shown for the two test regions Aletsch and Bernina in the Swiss Alps. In the Bernina region, potential future lake outbursts are modeled, using a GIS-based hydrological flow routing model. As shown by a corresponding test, the ASTER GDEM and the SRTM DEM are both suitable to be used within the proposed strategy. Application of this strategy in other mountain regions of the world is therefore possible as well.

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