A global database of historic glacier lake outburst floods
Abstract. Ongoing atmospheric warming has accelerated glacier mass loss in many mountain regions worldwide. Glacier lakes trap parts of the glacial meltwater and increased by about 50 % in number and area since the 1990s. Some of these glacier lakes may empty catastrophically and pose hazards to mountain communities, infrastructure, and habitats. Such glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) have caused millions of dollars of damages and fatalities, and are one of many concerns about future changes in the magnitude, frequency, and impacts of a shrinking mountain cryosphere. Consistently compiled inventories are thus vital to assess regional and local trends in GLOF occurrence, hazard, and risk. To this end, we studied 769 literature and internet sources, and developed a standardised database with 57 parameters that describe and quantify the location, dam type, size, timing, and impacts of GLOFs in nine glaciated mountain regions. Our GLOF inventory also includes details about the lake area before and after the outburst for 391 cases that we manually mapped from optical satellite images since 1984. In total, we compiled 3,151 reported GLOFs that occurred in 27 countries between 850 and 2022 C.E. Most GLOFs have been reported in NW North America (26 %) and Iceland (19 %). However, the reporting density in our inventory varies. During the 20th century alone, the number of yearly documented GLOFs increased 6-fold. Less than one-quarter of all reported cases feature hydrodynamic characteristics such as flood peak discharge or volume, or estimates of loss and damage. Our inventory more than doubles the number of reported GLOFs in a previous global inventory, though gaps in attributes remain. Our data collection process emphasizes the support of local experts in contributing previously undocumented cases, and we recommend applying systematic protocols when reporting new cases. The global database on historic GLOFs is archived at https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7330345 and regularly updated at http://glofs.geoecology.uni-potsdam.de/.
Natalie Lützow et al.
Status: open (extended)
- RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-449', Adam Emmer, 24 Feb 2023 reply
Natalie Lützow et al.
Glacier Lake Outburst Flood Database V3.0 https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.7330345
Natalie Lützow et al.
Viewed (geographical distribution)
It is always a pleasure to review a well-written manuscript presenting interesting data such as this one. The authors compiled unprecedently detailed inventory of GLOFs that happened on Earth in past ca 1300 years. This dataset has potential to be cited in studies dealing with GLOF occurrence patterns in space and time and GLOF hazard and risk assessment studies, and I find it generally suitable for ESSD. I have two general and few specific comments (below) to this manuscript:
L10: magnitude, frequency and impacts of processes …
L45: is there any specific reason for mentioning this particular GLOF?
L62: more info about the workflow and explored types of resources is needed (see my general comment)
L96: strictly speaking, lake dam type is not a characteristic of a location
L129: did you map lakes or GLOF (impacts)?
L129-136: this procedure applies also for Dates, right?
L221: I guess that this recent gap 2021-2022 is rather due to the reporting lag (I’m aware of at least one GLOF from moraine-dammed lake in 2022: https://repositorio.inaigem.gob.pe/items/c0beb0b1-e989-41e4-a785-8d5b699a48de) that leads me to my general comment about systematic search among various resources and the need to specify that in more detail)
Fig. 7: intuitively, I would expect no data in grey color
L242: those % should be related to share of individual lake dam types among GLOF-producing lakes
L353-368: please consider a separate sub-section discussing the future of the active branch of your database and ways how local experts are planned to be involved (see my general comment)
L368: Interesting, would you consider outbursts of thermokarst lakes in high latitude regions to be GLOFs? That would increase a total numbers a lot (see e.g. http://doi.org/10.1002/ppp.2038)
L369: please make clear what should preferably be cited if your data are used – zenodo repository, uni-potsdam website or this paper?
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To sum up, I support the publication of this manuscript once some moderate revisions addressing my two general comments are made.