Identification of potentially dangerous glacial lakes in the northern tian shan

Tobias Bolch*, Juliane Peters, Alexandr Yegorov, Biswajeet Pradhan, Manfred Buchroithner, Victor Blagoveshchensky

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Like in many other parts of the world, the glaciers in northern Tian Shan are receding, and the permafrost is thawing. Concomitantly, glacial lakes are developing. Historically, outbursts of these glacial lakes have resulted in severe hazards for infrastructures and livelihood. Multi-temporal space imageries are an ideal means to study and monitor glaciers and glacial lakes over large areas. Geomorphometric analysis and modeling allows to estimate the potential danger for glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). This paper presents a comprehensive approach by coupling of remote sensing, geomorphometric analyses aided with GIS modelling for the identification of potentially dangerous glacial lakes. We suggest a classification scheme based on an additive ratio scale in order to prioritise sites for detailed investigations. The identification and monitoring of glacial lakes was carried out semi-automatically using band ratioing and the normalised difference water index (NDWI) based on multi-temporal space imagery from the years 1971-2008 using Corona, ASTER and Landsat data. The results were manually edited when required. The probability of the growth of a glacial lake was estimated by analysing glacier changes, glacier motion and slope analysis. A permafrost model was developed based on geomorphometric parameters, solar radiation and regionalised temperature conditions which permitted to assess the influence of potential permafrost thawing. Finally, a GIS-based model was applied to simulate the possibly affected area of lake outbursts. The findings of this study indicate an increasing number and area of glacial lakes in the northern Tian Shan region. We identified several lakes with a medium to high potential for an outburst after classification according to their outburst probability and their downstream impact. These lakes should be investigated more in detail.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTerrigenous Mass Movements
Subtitle of host publicationDetection, Modelling, Early Warning and Mitigation Using Geoinformation Technology
PublisherSpringer Berlin - Heidelberg
Number of pages30
ISBN (Electronic)9783642254956
ISBN (Print)3642254942, 9783642254949
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Debris-flow
  • Geomatics
  • GIS
  • Glacial lakes
  • GLOF
  • Hazard assessment
  • Modelling
  • Remote sensing
  • Tian Shan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Engineering(all)

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