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Risk estimation for future glacier lake outburst floods based on local land-use changes

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2014
Author Nussbaumer Souria, Schaub Yvonne, Huggel Christian, Walz Arianne,
Project New lakes in deglaciating high-mountain areas: climate-related development and challenges for sustainable use
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Online Discussion
Volume (Issue) 14
Page(s) 1611 - 1624
Title of proceedings Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences Online Discussion
DOI 10.5194/nhess-14-1611-2014

Open Access


Effects of climate change are particularly strong in high-mountain regions. Most visibly, glaciers are shrinking at a rapid pace, and as a consequence, glacier lakes are forming or growing. At the same time the stability of mountain slopes is reduced by glacier retreat, permafrost thaw and other factors, resulting in an increasing risk of landslides which can potentially impact lakes and therewith trigger far reaching and devastating outburst floods. To manage risks from existing or future lakes, strategies need to be developed to plan in time for adequate risk reduction measures at a local level. However, methods to assess risks from future lake outbursts are not available. It is actually a challenge to develop methods to evaluate both, future hazard potential and future damage potential. Here we present an analysis of future risks related to glacier lake outbursts for a local site in southern Switzerland (Naters, Valais). To estimate two hazard scenarios, we used glacier shrinkage and lake formation modelling, simple flood modelling and field work. Further we developed a land-use model to quantify and allocate land-use changes based on local-to-regional storylines and three scenarios of land-use driving forces. Results are conceptualized in a matrix of three land-use and two hazard scenarios for a time period of 2045, and show the distribution of risk in the community of Naters, including high and very high risk areas. The study corroborates the importance of land-use planning to effectively reduce future risks related to lake outburst floods.