Himalayas in Danger of Tsunami

Glacial melt and earthquakes increase risk

    Photo: Nejron Photo via Shutterstock

In the Himalayas, you tend to worry about icefall or snowstorms. Tsunamis—not so much. At least, that was the pre-global warming situation. Researchers at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) say that alarming rates of glacial melting could up the risk of a Himalayan tsunami.

When glaciers melt and form lakes, the natural barriers holding them back can give way with the help of water pressure, erosion, or earthquakes, unleashing a torrent of meltwater. With warming temperatures, some glaciers are melting at concerning rates. More glacial lakes increase the possibility of outbursts, and more frequent outbursts mean a higher tsunami risk.

What would happen if a tsunami did occur? Residents of at-risk regions may not have much time to prepare. One power station near the village of Jhirpu Phulpingkatt would only be able to detect and send out a warning for floodwaters once they are in Nepali territory, leaving only a few minutes to evacuate. “All of us would have to run for our lives,” the manager of the station said.

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