Inundation Modeling of a Potential Glacial Lake Outburst Flood in Huaraz, Peru




Somos-Valenzuela, Marcelo A.
Chisolm, Rachel E.
McKinney, Daene C.
Rivas, Denny

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Center for Research in Water Resources, University of Texas at Austin


One of the consequences of recent glacier recession is the formation and rapid growth of lakes formed at the snout of glaciers. One risk is that moraines damming these glacial lakes could fail releasing a huge volume of water and creating a glacial lake outburst flood. This happened December 13, 1941, at Lake Palcacocha, Peru, flooding the city of Huaraz and killed several thousand people. Recently Lake Palcacocha has been declared in a state of emergency state because its volume has again reached dangerous levels, threatening a flood that would quickly reach Huaraz causing major devastation and potentially loss of life. An analysis has been performed of the glacial hazards for the city of Huaraz from Lake Palcacocha. This analysis consists of physical models of each process in the chain of events that results in a glacial lake outburst flood: rock and ice avalanche; wave generation, propagation and moraine overtopping; terminal moraine breaching and draining of the lake; and downstream inundation and impacts in the city of Huaraz. Two scenarios of moraine erosion were simulated: a worst-case event of a 56 m breach and a smaller 22.5 m erosion event. These scenarios showed that flood reaches the City of Huaraz 1.06 and 1.20 hours after the avalanche for the 56 m and 22.5 m events, respectively. The inundation in the city is extensive in both breaching events with depths exceeding 1 m in many areas, especially near the channel of the Quillcay River, and the velocity of the flood exceeding 1 m/s in most of this area. Because of the inundation depth and the velocity of the flow, most of the area of the city that experiences flooding will have a very high hazard level, putting both lives and property at risk.


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