Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers

2011 Edition
| Editors: Vijay P. Singh, Pratap Singh, Umesh K. Haritashya

Glacier Lake Outburst Floods

  • Lasafam IturrizagaEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2642-2_196


Aluviones; Débâcles; Glacial outwash floods; Gletscherlauf (German); Jökulhlaup (Icelandic); Megafloods and superfloods (Quaternary large-scaled glacier floods)


Glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) refer to sudden and in some cases cyclic release of meltwater from a glacier-dammed or moraine-dammed lake, which can result in a catastrophic flood. Thorarinsson (1939) introduced the term “jökulhlaup” for glacial floods due to the cataclysmic drainage of subglacial lakes in Iceland. It was originally referred to outburst floods triggered by volcanic activity and has been subsequently transferred to a variety of other types of glacial floods. It has become a widely used synonym for describing catastrophic glacial floods in general.

The size of glacial lakes varies considerably and the lakes may hold up to tens of millions of cubic meters of water. Glacier lake outbursts produce flows of water that may be an order of magnitude greater than average rainfall-derived peak...

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography/High Mountain GeomorphologyInstitute of Geography, University of GöttingenGöttingenGermany