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Outburst flood hazard for glacier-dammed Lac de Rochemelon, France

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Supraglacial Lac de Rochemelon was formed 50 years ago behind an ice dam and grew steadily until 2004. In October 2004, the volume of the lake reached 650 000 m3, bringing its surface within 0.2 m of the top of the ice dam. To eliminate the threat to towns located below in the event of an overflow, the lake was drained artificially in October 2004 and during the summer of 2005. Once the volume had been reduced to 250 000 m3 by siphoning, a channel was dug with explosives and the remaining water overflowed naturally. This offered a very good opportunity to investigate the breaching of an ice dam accompanied by thermal erosion of the drainage channel. Extensive field measurements were carried out during drainage. Analysis of the energy dissipated in the channel reveals that only half of the available energy was used for breach erosion. A numerical model was used to simulate the evolution of a number of variables during drainage and to study the sensitivity of discharge and ice erosion to different parameters, revealing a high sensitivity to water temperature. Model simulations indicate that natural drainage of this lake at the beginning of October 2004 would have led to a peak discharge of <6 m3 s–1.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2010

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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