Origin of the outburst flood from Glacier de Tête Rousse in 1892 (Mont Blanc area, France)

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Extensive field measurements and historical data have been used to re-analyse the cause of the outburst flood from Glacier de Tête Rousse that devastated the village of Saint-Gervais–Le Fayet, French Alps in 1892, causing 175 fatalities. The origin of this disaster was the rupture of an intraglacial cavity in Glacier de Tête Rousse that released 200 000 m3 of water and ice. All previous studies have concluded that the intraglacial cavity was formed from a crevasse that was filled and enlarged by meltwater. The re-analysis presented here suggests that the reservoir of the upper cavity did not originate as an enlarging crevasse. The origin of the meltwater reservoir was more likely a supraglacial lake formed before 1878 during a period of negative mass balance. Following a period of positive mass balance after 1878, the lake was hidden until the outburst flood of 1892. This means that such hazards may be detected by checking regularly for the formation of a lake on the surface of the glacier before it is hidden.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/002214310793146188

Publication date: October 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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