Glacial Lake Flooding Produces Devastating Damage in Pakistan

News Brief: 11 May 2022

Record-breaking heatwaves and rapid glacier melting triggered a devastating flood last week that wiped out a bridge, damaged homes, and swept away two major power plants in the Hunzu district of Pakistan. Extremely high temperatures over the past month accelerated snow and ice loss from the Shishpar glacier, increasing the neighboring lake’s volume until it burst. This lake sent a massive outpouring of water through the Hunzu valley, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to local infrastructure. This outburst flood occurred unusually early in the spring; most occur as temperatures rise during the mid-late summer. As global temperatures rise, not only are glacial lakes forming more rapidly, but they are also increasing in magnitude. Glacial lake outburst floods pose an increasing hazard to Pakistan’s northern mountainous regions as well as the communities that live in the valleys below, jeopardizing their reliable access to water resources.