More than 40 Himalayan lakes could burst their banks in five years’ time, sending millions of gallons of floodwater down into the valleys and killing thousands, scientists said Tuesday.
The lakes, formed by water from melting glaciers, are filling up faster and faster as glaciers succumb to global warming. Average temperatures in the Himalayas have risen by about 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1970s.
Researchers at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) have identified at least 44 potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the tiny Himalayan kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan.
UNEP’s conclusions were based on a two-year study of old and new maps, aerial and satellite photographs and the evidence of old sherpas who saw what were tiny ponds in their childhood becoming large lakes two generations later.
The researchers also found that catastrophic floods, once seen as a “500 year occurrence,” had become a frequent phenomenon in the 20th century.
Himalayan warming ‘may trigger floods’