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Unlocking GLOF's Menace in Sikkim : A Terrifying Reality.



  Oct 13, 2023

Understanding GLOF and Its Impact in Sikkim



What is GLOF?

GLOF, or Glacial Lake Outburst Flood, is a phenomenon where a dam containing a glacial lake fails, resulting in a sudden and often catastrophic release of water.

Formation of a Glacial Lake:

Glacial lakes form when glaciers retreat, leaving depressions in the landscape. These depressions fill with meltwater from the glacier and rainfall, forming lakes that are often dammed by moraines (debris left behind by the glacier).

Sikkim and GLOF:

Sikkim, situated in the eastern Himalayan region, is home to numerous glaciers. The melting of these glaciers, accelerated by climate change, has led to the formation of various glacial lakes, some of which pose GLOF risks.

Causes of GLOF in Sikkim:

Moraine Failures: A major cause for GLOFs. In Sikkim, the South Lhonak lake’s moraine dam failed, causing the recent flood. These natural dams, made of unconsolidated boulders, dirt, and ice, can be unstable and prone to breaking.

Accelerated Glacier Melting: Warming temperatures cause glaciers to melt at a faster rate, increasing the volume of water in glacial lakes and putting more pressure on their moraine dams.

Avalanches or Landslides: A sudden avalanche or landslide can push into a glacial lake, causing water to overflow.

Seismic Activity: Earthquakes can destabilize the moraine dams or even the lake bed, triggering an outburst.

Sikkim’s Recent GLOF Event:

In early October, a disaster occurred when the South Lhonak glacial lake in Sikkim burst its banks. Satellite imagery showed that while the lake’s size had reduced after the flood, the risk of another GLOF remained due to the continued glacier melting and the inflow from surrounding areas.

Implications:

GLOFs can lead to widespread destruction, washing away infrastructure, causing loss of life, and reshaping landscapes. The recent GLOF event in Sikkim resulted in significant casualties and damage to infrastructure.
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