UD researcher participates in first global study of glacial lakes

Credit: NASA

Credit: NASA

In the largest-ever study of glacial lakes, NASA-funded researchers — including University of Dayton geologist Umesh Haritashya and his student Katherine Strattman — found glacial lake volume has increased by about 50% worldwide since 1990 as glaciers melt and retreat due to climate change.

“Glaciers are retreating on a near-global scale. You often hear about this melt causing a rise in the sea level, but in addition, some of the melt water is stored in the glacial lakes that doesn’t contribute immediately to the sea level,” Haritashya said. “These glacial lakes are often not stable. They are dammed just by ice or glacial sediment called a moraine, and they pose a risk of massive floods downstream that in the last century have caused numerous deaths and destroyed villages and infrastructure.”

The study’s findings, published in Nature Climate Change, affect how researchers evaluate how much glacial melt water reaches the oceans and contributes to sea level rise as well as evaluate hazard risks for communities downstream.

Since 2012, Haritashya has received nearly $3 million in NASA funding to study glacial lakes and landslides in the Himalaya and Karakoram mountains of southeast Asia.

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