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Glacial lake outburst flood risk in the Bolivian Andes

Kougkoulos, Ioannis (2019) Glacial lake outburst flood risk in the Bolivian Andes. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The Bolivian Andes have experienced sustained and widespread glacier area reduction and volume loss in recent decades. This study finds that from 1986 to 2018 glacier areas have shrunk from 529 km2 to 281 km2 (49 %) in the Bolivian Cordillera Oriental. Glacier melting and recession has been accompanied by the development of proglacial lakes, which can pose a glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) risk to downstream communities. Therefore, glacier bed topographies were extracted and illustrate the potential development of 68 future lakes. Eight of these lakes possess populations downstream. A simple geometric model (MC-LCP) was used to model GLOFs from these potential future lakes, illustrating that ~1100 to ~2900 people could be affected by flooding if these lakes were to appear and to burst. The rest of this work is dedicated on the estimation of the risk from current, already existing lakes. Multi- Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) was used to rapidly identify potentially dangerous proglacial lakes in regions around the world without existing tailored GLOF risk assessments, where a range of proglacial lake types exist, and where field data are sparse or non-existent. After testing the robustness of the MCDA model against a number of past GLOFs, it was applied to the Bolivian Cordillera Oriental. From the 25 lakes possessing populations downstream, 3 lakes were found to pose ‘medium’ or ‘high’ risk, and required further detailed investigation. Since no attempt has yet been made to model GLOF inundation downstream from these proglacial lakes, 2m resolution DEMs were generated from stereo and tri-stereo SPOT 6/7 satellite images to drive a hydrodynamic model (HEC-RAS 5.0.3) of GLOF flow. The model was tested against field observations of a 2009 GLOF from Keara, in the Cordillera Apolobamba, and was shown to reproduce realistic flood depths and inundation. The model was then used to model GLOFs from Pelechuco lake (Cordillera Apolobamba) and Laguna Arkhata and Laguna Glaciar (Cordillera Real). In total, ~1100 to ~2200 people could be directly affected by outburst flooding.

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