Modelling Glacial Lake Outburst Floods: Key Considerations and Challenges Posed By Climatic Change

Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Matthew Westoby, Northumbria University, Geography, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, United Kingdom; Aberystwyth University, Centre for Glaciology, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
The number and size of moraine-dammed supraglacial and proglacial lakes is increasing as a result of contemporary climatic change. Moraine-dammed lakes are capable of impounding volumes of water in excess of 107 m3, and often represent a very real threat to downstream communities and infrastructure, should the bounding moraine fail and produce a catastrophic Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF). Modelling the individual components of a GLOF, including a triggering event, the complex dam-breaching process and downstream propagation of the flood is incredibly challenging, not least because direct observation and instrumentation of such high-magnitude flows is virtually impossible. We briefly review the current state-of-the-art in numerical GLOF modelling, with a focus on the theoretical and computational challenges associated with reconstructing or predicting GLOF dynamics in the face of rates of cryospheric change that have no historical precedent, as well as various implications for researchers and professionals tasked with the production of hazard maps and disaster mitigation strategies.