Study: Glacial Lakes are Increasing in Volume Worldwide due to Glacier Melt

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A global survey that used satellite data has determined that overall, glacial lakes have increased in volume almost 50% since 1990 (Shugar et al., 2020). Glacier melt and retreat are the main drivers of this increase. Researchers mapped glacial lakes using 254,795 Landsat satellite images. Analysis of changes in glacial lakes globally except for Antarctica between 1990 and 2018 in five time-steps beginning was done using Google Earth Engine. The results showed that between 1990 and 2018, glacial lake volume worldwide increased about 48%, to 156.5 km3.

Imja Tsho is one such glacial lake that has experienced growth. In 2009 a study by Bajracharya & Mool looked at changes in the lake over time. The glacial lake grew from 48,811 square meters in 1960 to 848,742 square meters by 2000 and 945,662 by 2007.

Natural-color image of Imja Tsho and surrounding glaciers. Source: Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, October 4, 2010.
Natural-color image of Imja Tsho and surrounding glaciers. Source: Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on NASA’s Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite, October 4, 2010.

Watch: Tracking 3 Decades of Dramatic Glacial Lake Growth

References

Bajracharya, S.R., Mool, P. (2009). Glaciers, glacial lakes and glacial lake outburst floods in the Mount Everest region, Nepal. Annals of Glaciology,50(53), 81–86. https://doi.org/10.3189/172756410790595895


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Guiltenane, E., & Cole, S. (2020, August 31). Global survey using NASA data shows dramatic growth of glacial lakes. NASA. https://www.nasa.gov/press-release/global-survey-using-nasa-data-shows-dramatic-growth-of-glacial-lakes

Imja Tsho, Nepal. (2010, October 17). NASA Earth Observatory. https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/46405/imja-tsho-nepal

Shugar, D. H., Burr, A., Haritashya, U. K., Kargel, J. S., Watson, C. S., Kennedy, M. C., Bevington, A. R., Betts, R. A., Harrison, S., & Strattman, K. (2020). Rapid worldwide growth of glacial lakes since 1990. Nature Climate Change. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-020-0855-4


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