Nature’s Fury: the GLOF

Glofs, glacial lake outburst floods, play a prominent role in my book Truth-Teller Rebellion. Glofs occur each year and are every bit as horrific as in Truth-Teller Rebellion. Over five thousand people died last June when Chaurabari Lake, a lake spawned from the Chaurabari glacier in the Indian Himalayas, burst its banks after unusually hot weather. Global warming means there will be more glofs in the future, at least while there still are glaciers.

Fortunately, most glaciers are in the Arctic and Antarctica where they pose no threat, but many of the over forty Himalayan glaciers are potential man killers. Monitoring of glacial lakes can give an early warning of any threats. In fact, Chaurabari Lake was a known problem, although somehow this was not communicated to those in danger.

Present glofs are small beans compared to the Missoula Floods that carved the coulees of eastern Washington fifteen thousand years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. Three thousand square mile Lake Missoula in Montana went through a fifty-odd year cycle of filling and bursting. When the ice dam blocking it gave way, Lake Missoula would hurl towards the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles away at speeds up to eighty miles per hour and with a volume many times all the present rivers of the world. Dry Falls in eastern Washington’s Grand Coulee was formed by the Missoula Floods. At three and a half miles wide it’s believed to have been the largest waterfall ever seen on Earth. Today it’s still impressive even without water going over it. I’ve caught trout in the lake below the falls while watching deer feed along the precipice’s face.

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