Scientists ponder reasons for U’khand floods

New Delhi, Feb 08 (PTI):
Global warming or maybe a Western disturbance bringing fresh snow that melted could have triggered the inundation in Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district, experts said on Monday as they scrambled to understand the reasons for the avalanche and floods that wreaked havoc in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. Recalling the horrors of the 2013 deluge in the hill state in which thousands were killed, a part of the Nanda Devi glacier broke off at Joshimath on Sunday, leading to a massive flood in the Alaknanda river system. Till late afternoon Monday, 18 bodies had been recovered and 202 were missing. The Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment (SASE) of the Defence Research and Development Organisation is investigating the exact reason for the flooding but there are no clear answers yet for a glacier to have melted in the winter. It is not clear whether the flood is a typical Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) or some temporary damming due to a landslide and avalanche that might have blocked the mainstream to form a temporary lake which burst, said Ranjit Rath, director general of the Geological Survey of India (GSI). A GLOF is a type of outburst flood that occurs when the dam containing a glacial lake fails.
Once the water level recedes a team of experts will assess the damage as well as the triggering factor responsible for the outburst, Rath told reporters here. As the nightmare envisaged by numerous environmentalists warning against untrammeled development in the mountains came true on Sunday, glaciologist Farooq Azam said a glacial burst is very rare. “We have been trying to understand the event since yesterday. Right now what we can tell is a glacier slipped from around 500-600 metres, which started a landslide with an icefall that triggered this disaster,” Azam, assistant professor, Glaciology & Hydrology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Indore, told PTI.
“For sure there was no glacial lake outburst flood, for sure there is no cloud burst because there is no lake available in the region at this particular time. Even if there are lakes, they are frozen and they don’t have any activity. The disaster happened because of an icefall and landslide.” he added.
Satellite and Google Earth images, Azam added, do not show a glacial lake near the region, but there’s a possibility there may be a water pocket in the region.
Water pockets are lakes inside the glaciers, which may have erupted leading to this event, Azam told PTI.
The scientist, however, said further analysis, weather reports and data are needed to confirm if this indeed was the case.

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