May 18, 2012

West Barun Glacier Retreat Lake Expansion, Nepal

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The West Barun Glacier flows southwest from Baruntse Peak at 7100 meters ending at Barun Khola (lake) at 4500 meters. Comparison of images from 1992, 2003 and 2009 indicate the retreat of the glacier and expansion of the lake. In the early 1990’s the lake was observed to be 1100 meters long with an area of 0.66 square kilometers (ICIMOD, 2010). In 2003 the lake was 1500 meters long. In 2009 the lake was 2000 meters long and had an area of 1.4 square kilometers having doubled in size. In 2013 the maximum length of the lake is 2700 m and the area 1.5 to 1.6 square kilometers. The importance of such lakes impounded in part by moraines, is the potential for glacier lake outburst floods (GLOF). The Barun Khola has no specific date for a GLOF observed, but does pose a risk and has produced floods as indicated by Pradeep Mool (2001) in Figure 1 of the ICIMOD (2010) report, reproduced here, Band C are Barun Khola. ICIMOD has examined this hazard extensively in Nepal and particularly the Dudh Khosi Basin. To date the Dudh Khosi does not have main stem hydropower, but a 210 MW plant is in development. An examination of Landsat imagery from 1992 and 2009 along with Google Earth imagery from 2003 and 2009 is used to identify the retreat. The red line in the Google earth images is the 1992 terminus, the orange line the 2003 terminus and the green line the 2009 terminus. The glacier is outlined in magenta in the Landsat images. The glacier retreated 270 meters, 25 m/year), from 1992 to 2003. From 2003 to 2009 the glacier retreated an additional 480 meter, 80 meters per year. In the 2013 Landsat image the southern portion of the terminus has not markedly retreated since 2009, but the lake expansion continues on the northern shore of the lake., pink arrow.
1992 Landsat image

2003 Google earth image

2009 Google Earth image

2009 Landsat image
barun glacier 2013
2013 Landsat image

A closeup view of the terminus from Google Earth indicates lots of icebergs near the ice front, magenta arrows. The icebergs in the Landsat image later in 2009 have drifted further from the glacier. The angular nature of the icebergs indicates recent large calving event. There are also some small lakes on the surface of the glacier, yellow arrows.
This glaciers retreat and lake expansion is like the nearby North Lhonak Glacier, Middle Lhonak Glacier, Imja Glacier and Nobuk Glacier.