It came out of the blue. A crack in the ice and then a surge of water rushing at 400m3 per second down the slopes of the high Andes towards the remote village of Keara in Bolivia. The sudden flood swept away crops, farm animals and pets, but spared the human population on the whole. The surge also destroyed the only road, leaving survivors cut off for several months. But what caused this unexpected disaster?
Helping to Prevent Disaster
Known as the Apolobamba glacial outburst flood of 2009, it was the direct result of climate change. As glaciers in the Bolivian Andes recede (they have shrunk by 43% since the 1980s), meltwater forms lakes on loose piles of sediment that can prove unstable. If a rock or ice avalanche disturbs the lake waters, deadly floods can kill those living in the valleys below. Perhaps surprisingly, multilingual transcription can be an effective tool in helping prevent such climate disasters. Read more