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Reconstruction of glacial lake outburst floods in northern Tien Shan: Implications for hazard assessment

Zaginaev, V.
Erokhin, S.
Matov, E.
Petrakov, D.
Published in Geomorphology. 2016, vol. 269, p. 75-84
Abstract Glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) and related debris flows are among the most significant natural threats in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan and have even caused the loss of life and damage to infrastructure in its capital Bishkek. An improved understanding of the occurrence of this process is essential so as to be able to design reliable disaster risk reduction strategies, even more so in view of ongoing climate change and scenarios of future evolutions. Here, we apply a dendrogeomorphic approach to reconstruct past debris-flow activity on the Aksay cone (Ala-Archa valley, Kyrgyz range), where outbursting glacier lakes and intense rainfalls have triggered huge debris flows over the past decades. A total of 96 Picea abies (L.) Karst. trees growing on the cone and along the main channel have been selected based on the evidence of past debris-flow damage in their trunks; these trees were then sampled using increment borers. The dating of past events was based on the assessment of growth disturbances (GD) in the tree-ring records and included the detection of injuries, tangential rows of traumatic resin ducts, reaction wood, and abrupt growth changes. In total, 320 GD were identified in the tree-ring samples. In combination with aerial imagery and geomorphic recognition in the field, reactions in trees and their position on the cone have allowed reconstruction of the main spatial patterns of past events on the Aksay cone. Our findings suggest that at least 27 debris flows have occurred on the site between 1877 and 2015 and point to the occurrence of at least 17 events that were not documented prior to this study. We also observe high process activity during the 1950s and 1960s, with major events on the cone in 1950, 1966, and 1968, coinciding with phases of slight glacier advance. The spatial analyses of events also point to two different spatial patterns, suggesting that quite dissimilar magnitudes probably occurred during glacier lake outburst floods and rainfall-induced debris-flow events. The results presented here represent the longest, annually resolved GLOF series in the region, which in turn has key implications on risk assessment, not just in the Ala-Archa valley, but also in the entire Kyrgyz range (northern Tien Shan).
Keywords Debris flowGLOFTree ringsDendrogeomorphologyGlacierAksayKyrgyz rangeKyrgyzstan
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Research group Climatic Change and Climate Impacts
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ZAGINAEV, V. et al. Reconstruction of glacial lake outburst floods in northern Tien Shan: Implications for hazard assessment. In: Geomorphology, 2016, vol. 269, p. 75-84. doi: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.06.028 https://archive-ouverte.unige.ch/unige:121960

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Deposited on : 2019-08-27

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