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Know what is glacial lake outburst flood that wreaked havoc in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli!

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Chamoli: Flash flood in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district on Sunday that killed dozens of people, left Geologists and experts stunned as they believe it could have been human induced. There are several studies on the Himalayan glaciers that reveal that melting of the glaciers in Central Himalayan catchment area, where Chamoli falls, has doubled in the past 20 years and could impact livelihood of millions of people living in the Ganga river basin from Uttarakhand to Bangladesh.

Also Read :- Cloudburst, flash floods in Himachal's Dharamshala destruct everything in its way

In June 2013, a similar flash flood was caused by glacial lake burst which had ravaged the Kedarnath shrine at the peak of the pilgrimage season, killing close to 3,000 people and leaving thousands missing.


Experts believe what happened at Chamoli is GLOF or ‘glacial lake outburst flood’, which is a breach in a glacier and is not very unusual. A glacial lake is formed when a space is left after glaciers retreat and gets filled with water. When such a lake breaches, it is known as glacial lake outburst flood. Investigation is still on to find out what triggered February 7th breach, whether there was an avalanche in the area recently or the lake breach was the result of human induced like construction, anthropological activities, climate change etc.

This deluge is believed to be caused by Nandadevi glacier breach. To note, Nandadevi is the second highest mountain after Kanchenjunga.

Know what is an AVALANCHE

Also Read :- Uttarakhand disaster: Absence of an 'early warning system' cost many lives

An avalanche occurs when falling masses of snow and ice, lying upon a weaker layer of snow, gathers pace while coming down the slope. But an avalanche is highly unlikely to result in the rise of water of that magnitude what district of Chamoli witnessed this Sunday.


Cloudburst is a sudden, very heavy rainfall accompanies by hail and a thunderstorm that can quickly dump large amounts of water. But it generally happens in monsoon.

However, the timing of Chamoli disaster has surprised the experts as there is no immediate trigger that can be pointed to as the reason why suddenly water level rose to that level that washed away two hydro projects in the area.

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