Annual Report 2015: Knowledge generation and use

Bhutan Glacial Lake Outburst Flood Draws Quick Response from ICIMOD 

On the evening of June 28, a yak herder in Bhutan witnessed an alarming sight when Lemthang Tsho Lake burst its embankment, the start of a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF). Early warning systems alerted downstream communities as the onrushing water swept away bridges, caused a landslide, and left the lake as nothing but a stream. Concern about remaining hazards, including the threat of other GLOFs, prompted the Government of Bhutan to ask for ICIMOD’s assistance in investigating  the event.

A field team was soon on its way, an example of the quick response to the needs of its regional member countries that ICIMOD is poised to provide. The scientific team, put together by the SERVIR-Himalaya Initiative and Cryosphere Monitoring Programme, assessed the site and other nearby glacial lakes. They allayed fears about those particular lakes and gained more understanding of the dynamic of GLOFs, which pose an increasing risk as climate change intensifies. Findings were presented to Bhutan’s Minister of Economic Affairs and other government officials.