Original Paper

Natural Hazards

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 887-899

First online:

Glacial lakes and glacial lake outburst flood in a Himalayan basin using remote sensing and GIS

  • Sanjay K. JainAffiliated withNational Institute of Hydrology Email author 
  • , Anil K. LohaniAffiliated withNational Institute of Hydrology
  • , R. D. SinghAffiliated withNational Institute of Hydrology
  • , Anju ChaudharyAffiliated withNational Institute of Hydrology
  • , L. N. ThakuralAffiliated withNational Institute of Hydrology

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


Glacial hazards relate to hazards associated with glaciers and glacial lakes in high mountain areas and their impacts downstream. The climatic change/variability in recent decades has made considerable impacts on the glacier life cycle in the Himalayan region. As a result, many big glaciers melted, forming a large number of glacial lakes. Due to an increase in the rate at which ice and snow melted, the accumulation of water in these lakes started increasing. Sudden discharge of large volumes of water with debris from these lakes potentially causes glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in valleys downstream. Outbursts from glacier lakes have repeatedly caused the loss of human lives as well as severe damage to local infrastructure. Monitoring of the glacial lakes and extent of GLOF impact along the downstream can be made quickly and precisely using remote sensing technique. A number of hydroelectric projects in India are being planned in the Himalayan regions. It has become necessary for the project planners and designers to account for the GLOF also along with the design flood for deciding the spillway capacity of projects. The present study deals with the estimation of GLOF for a river basin located in the Garwhal Himalaya, India. IRS LISSIII data of the years 2004, 2006 and 2008 have been used for glacial lake mapping, and a total of 91 lakes have been found in the year 2008, and out of these, 45 lakes are having area more than 0.01 km2. All the lakes have been investigated for vulnerability for potential bursting, and it was found that no lake is vulnerable from GLOF point of view. The area of biggest lake is 0.193, 0.199 and 0.203 km2 in the years 2004, 2006 and 2008, respectively. Although no lake is potentially hazardous, GLOF study has been carried out for the biggest lake using MIKE 11 software. A flood of 100-year return period has been considered in addition to GLOF. The flood peak at catchment outlet comes out to be 993.74, 1,184.0 and 1,295.58 cumec due to GLOF; 3,274.74, 3,465.0 and 3,576.58 cumec due to GLOF; and 100-year return flood together considering breach width of 40, 60 and 80 m, respectively.


GLOF Glacier NDSI Mike 11