Imja Case Study: Using Space Technology to Reduce Glacial Lake Outburst Floods


Climate change causes the Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF), which affects the mountain ecosystem and the way of life of people who live in mountainous areas. With the help of the local community, experts could use space tools like RADAR, GNSS, WiFi, and GIS to help find and fix GLOF risks. This would help reach SDG-13 goals.
Space technology can give information about glacial lakes that are in places that are hard to get to and at high altitudes. In this essay, a case study of how these space tools were used to find and deal with risks at Imja Lake in the Everest region is given.



Climate change has become one of the most important things to talk about in the 21st century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines it as “a change in climate that can be directly or indirectly linked to human activities that change the composition of the global atmosphere and are in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable periods” (IPCC, 2020). Some of its immediate effects are an increase in the global temperature, extreme or low rainfall, and a faster melting of glaciers, which can lead to a flood from a glacial lake (GLOF). People who live near possible dangers are the ones who have to suffer the most because of climate change. It would not only hurt the economy, but also change the landscape, change the way people interact, and cause long-term problems with living that might take generations to fix.

With the help of space tools like Remote Sensing, RADAR, GNSS, and GIS, problems like the remoteness of fields and the difficulty of getting data from higher and harder-to-reach heights are no longer a problem. In the same way, LANDSAT satellites have the best ground resolution and spectral bands to track land use and record land changes caused by climate change, urbanization, drought, wildfires, changes in biomass, and many other natural and man-made changes. (USGS, 2020) So, space tools could help reach the goals of SDG-13.

Problems with the GLOF

Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOF) pose a threat to mountainous countries that is hard to imagine. The end moraine, which is a loose mix of rock debris, makes these lakes potentially unstable as the amount of water in the lake rises and the moraine dam is put under more pressure. Eventually, hydrostatic pressure could break through the dam and let most or all of the water out of the lake. (Rai, \s2015) People and towns in the area downstream suffer a lot because of the sudden flood water.
A case study of Imja lake GLOF risk identification in Nepal’s remote Himalayas could be one way to look at how space tools help prevent disasters. The lake is in the Everest area at 27° 53′ 55″ N latitude, 86° 55′ 20″ E longitude, and 5010 m above sea level. It is a glacial lake that has a high chance of bursting.

(ICIMOD, 2020) (Budhathoki, et al., 2010) say that if the Imja lake suddenly bursts, it will do a lot of damage down the Imja Khola until it meets the Sun Koshi, a distance of about 90 km, and wash away several villages in the river’s path.
Imja Lake, like many other glacial lakes in the Himalayas, is in a remote mountainous area. So, information can’t be collected regularly at the site. This is exactly why space tools are so important. They make the work much easier, faster, and more accurate. The task can be done with the help of local youth, experts, and analysts working together.

GLOF Early Warning System Development Proposal

Nepal is in the third world, so it doesn’t have the very fast internet that is needed to download data about space. Since a single RADAR data can be a few gigabytes, it is proposed to set up a very fast internet connection at an academic institution. The institution will focus on analyzing data from space, which could include analyzing flooding caused by Imja lake. Sentinelhub is another option. It offers server space (mostly to European institutions) and tools for preliminary analysis, like data clipping, preprocessing, etc.

In the same way, for regular processing and analysis of images, it’s important to set up computers with a lot of processing power that can be accessed by many client computers. The author of this article has worked in the fields of geographic information systems (GIS), civil engineering, and disaster risk management. He or she will work with students, professionals, and professors to make tools for analyzing and sharing information.

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This whole process of figuring out what risks there are and how to deal with them needs the help of the local people. So, it’s been suggested that the local community work with a group of skilled young people to regularly send geotagged photos that can be looked at by experts. With the help of the community, the most vulnerable parts of the population will be found based on how close they are to areas with a lot of GLOF and how poor they are.

Glacier Lake Outburst Flood

Several Nepalese universities with departments in information science, disaster risk management, and water flow modeling could help make tools to analyze the data sent from space. To analyze and predict the lake’s surface area and depth, multiple radar data and images from passive sensors are needed. Since some of these data may need to be submitted in the form of a proposal, academic institutions will propose, on which this author will work.
Lastly, the scenarios for how dangerous the outburst of the glacier lake will be made ahead of time. Before the lake gets so full that it could overflow, the water level can be lowered with siphons and other easy-to-use technology that has already been tried in Tshorolpa lake. If a flood is about to happen soon, the communities downriver will be warned based on when the river is expected to break at each place.


2010: Budhathoki, K.P., Bajracharya, O.R., and Pokharel, B. Using remote sensing techniques, an assessment was made of the risk of an Imja Glacier Lake outburst flood (GLOF) in the Dudh Koshi River Basin.
The seventh issue of the Journal of Hydrology and Meteorology.


In conclusion, using space technology and tools, along with help from the local community, to map and keep an eye on glacial lakes helps deal with GLOF and improves the way to deal with disasters. This would add more support to SDG-13 goals to deal with climate change.

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