30 Jan 2023
 | 30 Jan 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint was accepted for the journal ESSD.

A global database of historic glacier lake outburst floods

Natalie Lützow, Georg Veh, and Oliver Korup

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 and regularly updated at

Natalie Lützow et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on essd-2022-449', Adam Emmer, 24 Feb 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Natalie Lützow, 10 May 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on essd-2022-449', Anonymous Referee #2, 04 Apr 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Natalie Lützow, 10 May 2023
  • RC3: 'Comment on essd-2022-449', Anonymous Referee #3, 06 Apr 2023
    • AC3: 'Reply on RC3', Natalie Lützow, 10 May 2023

Natalie Lützow et al.

Data sets

Glacier Lake Outburst Flood Database V3.0 Natalie Lützow and Georg Veh

Natalie Lützow et al.


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Short summary
Glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) are a prominent natural hazard, and climate change may change their magnitude, frequency, and impacts. This paper introduces a global, literature-based GLOF inventory, entailing 3151 reported GLOFs. The reporting density varies temporally and regionally, with most cases occurring in NW North America. Since 1900, the number of yearly documented GLOFs increased sixfold. However, many GLOFs have incomplete records and we call for a systematic reporting protocol.