Coffee Hour: Impacts of the April 27, 2015 Nepal earthquake on four potentially dangerous glacial lakes in Nepal

Friday, January 22, 2016 - 3:30pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

glacial lake in Nepal

About the talk

On April 25, 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck central Nepal, causing more than 8,000 deaths throughout the country. Two weeks later, a magnitude 7.3 aftershock caused further damage and uncertainty. Massive landslides wiped out entire villages, rivers were dammed by landslides, and the geologic and geomorphic integrity of high altitude mountains and glaciers was destabilized. Scientists throughout the world began to worry that the seismic activity could also result in new glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) through the weakening of terminal moraines and destabilization of potential triggers, such as overhanging ice and landslides. It was also feared that the arrival of the monsoon rains could further destabilize mountainsides, hillslopes, and moraines through the continuous soaking rains, melting of ice, and saturation of soils. In order to fully understand what the impacts of the earthquake were on lake stability, the High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) ( fielded a volunteer group of U.S. and Nepali scientists and researchers to conduct detailed remote sensing and field-based assessments of three of Nepal’s most dangerous glacial lakes—Imja Lake (in the Mt. Everest region), Tsho Rolpa Lake (Rowaling region), and Thulagi Lake (Manaslu region). The goal of the project was to conduct analyses of post-earthquake impacts on the structural integrity of the three glacial lakes that included detecting changes in water volume, discharge, end moraine stability, lateral moraine stability, seepage, glacial terminus, ice-cored moraines, and risk of flooding. The presentation will discuss the results of the four separate field expeditions, including a list of recommendations and next steps for reducing the threat of future GLOFs in Nepal.

About the speaker

Alton ByersAlton C. Byers, Ph.D., is a senior research associate at the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR), University of Colorado at Boulder and co-manager of the High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) ( He is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received his doctorate from the University of Colorado in 1987, focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Khumbu, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as environmental advisor, and between 1990 and 2015 worked as co-manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and director of Andean Programs, director of Appalachian Programs, and as director of Science and Exploration. His recent awards include the American Alpine Club’s David Brower Conservation Award; Association of American Geographer’s Distinguished Career Award; Mountain Steward Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal. Byers has published widely on a range of scientific topics, and is an author and editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions that was published in September, 2013 by the University of California Press at Berkeley.

Suggested viewing

1. A post-earthquake assessment video, along with a press release and a link to the full final report, can be downloaded at


2. A selection of glacial lake outburst flood videos made during the High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP: can be downloaded at:

• Lake 464 (2010)

• Global Glacial Lake Partnership (2011)

• High Mountain Glacial Watershed Program (2012)

• High Mountain Adaptation Partnership (2013)        

Contact us

Penn State encourages qualified persons with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities. If you anticipate needing any type of accommodation or have questions about the physical access provided, please contact Angela Rogers in advance of your participation or visit.

Angela Rogers   office: 814-863-4562  email:

Coffee Hour