Reconstructing the history of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOF) in the Kanchenjunga Conservation Area, East Nepal: An interdisciplinary approach

Alton C. Byers, Mohan Bahadur Chand, Jonathan Lala, Milan Shrestha, Elizabeth A. Byers, Teiji Watanabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


An interdisciplinary field investigation of historic glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) in the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal was conducted between April and May, 2019. Oral history and field measurements suggested that at least six major GLOFs have occurred in the region since 1921. A remote sensing analysis confirmed the occurrence of the six GLOFs mentioned by informants, including two smaller flood events not mentioned that had occurred at some point before 1962. A numerical simulation of the Nangama GLOF suggested that it was triggered by an ice/debris avalanche of some 800,000 m3 of material, causing a surge wave that breached the terminal moraine and released an estimated 11.2 × 106 m3 ± 1.4 × 106 m3 of water. Debris from the flood dammed the Pabuk Khola river 2 km below the lake to form what is today known as Chheche Pokhari lake. Some concern has been expressed for the possibility of a second GLOF from Nangama as the result of continued and growing landslide activity from its right lateral moraine. Regular monitoring of all lakes and glaciers is recommended to avoid and/or mitigate the occurrence of future GLOF events in the region. Collectively, the paper demonstrates the benefits and utility of interdisciplinary research approaches to achieving a better understanding of past and poorly documented GLOF events in remote, data-scarce high mountain environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5407
JournalSustainability (Switzerland)
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF)
  • Interdisciplinary approaches
  • Kanchenjunga
  • Nepal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Energy Engineering and Power Technology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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