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Karakoram Himalayas are vulnerable to glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), which cause catastrophic floods in the surrounding areas. The increasing natural and anthropogenic activities, especially in the Indo-Gangetic Plains at the southern flank of the towering Himalayas, could be the cause of climate change affecting the frequency of the natural hazards in the Himalayas. In the present study, a detailed analysis of the Shisper Lake breach of 7 May 2022 is carried out using satellite remote sensing. A decreasing trend in the glacial mass balance is observed between 2017 and 2021; in this period, frequent GLOF episodes occurred. A pronounced decline in the snow cover and glacial debris (before the cascade) and an abnormal increase in land surface temperature (LST) retrieved from satellite data could be responsible for the enhanced snow/glacial melting prior to the breach. Alteration in glacial mobility (cm/12 days) is observed at the locations where the glacier melts due to an increase in LST with increased debris cover. In the paper, we have studied changes in water quality and land cover along the stream after the GLOF. An increment in normalized difference turbidity index (NDTI) is observed before the flood showing turbulence and sediment load. Increased glacial melt contribution into the stream results in increased flow rate and decreased water quality as observed through normalized difference water index (NDWI) and normalized difference chlorophyll index (NDCI), near the Karakoram Highway Bridge. Sentinel-1 backscatter coefficient indicates increased discharge from the melting of glaciers. A significant reduction in co-flood coherence is observed, attributed to the bridge collapse and severe bank erosion.


This article was originally published in Geomatics, Natural Hazards and Risk, volume 14, issue 1, in 2023.


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