Glacial lake outburst floods threaten millions globally

Caroline Taylor, Tom R. Robinson*, Stuart Dunning, J. Rachel Carr, Matthew Westoby

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) represent a major hazard and can result in significant loss of life. Globally, since 1990, the number and size of glacial lakes has grown rapidly along with downstream population, while socio-economic vulnerability has decreased. Nevertheless, contemporary exposure and vulnerability to GLOFs at the global scale has never been quantified. Here we show that 15 million people globally are exposed to impacts from potential GLOFs. Populations in High Mountains Asia (HMA) are the most exposed and on average live closest to glacial lakes with ~1 million people living within 10 km of a glacial lake. More than half of the globally exposed population are found in just four countries: India, Pakistan, Peru, and China. While HMA has the highest potential for GLOF impacts, we highlight the Andes as a region of concern, with similar potential for GLOF impacts to HMA but comparatively few published research studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number487
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2023


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