loading page

Shaking up assumptions: Earthquakes have rarely triggered Andean Glacier Lake Outburst Floods
  • +7
  • Joanne L Wood,
  • Stephan Harrison,
  • Ryan Wilson,
  • Adam Emmer,
  • Jeffrey S Kargel,
  • Simon J Cook,
  • Neil F Glasser,
  • John M Reynolds,
  • Dan H Shugar,
  • Christian Yarleque
Joanne L Wood

Corresponding Author:[email protected]

Author Profile
Stephan Harrison
University of Exeter
Ryan Wilson
University of Huddersfield
Adam Emmer
University of Graz
Jeffrey S Kargel
Planetary Science Institute
Simon J Cook
University of Dundee
Neil F Glasser
Aberystwyth University
John M Reynolds
Reynolds Geo-Solutions Ltd; Mold
Dan H Shugar
University of Calgary
Christian Yarleque
Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú


As the world’s glaciers recede in response to a warming atmosphere, a change in the magnitude and frequency of related hazards is expected. Among the most destructive hazards are Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), and their future evolution is concerning for local populations and sustainable development policy. Central to this is a better understanding of triggers. There is a long-standing assumption that earthquakes are a major GLOF trigger, and seismic activity is consistently included as a key hazard assessment criterion. Here, we provide the first empirical evidence that this assumption is largely incorrect. Focusing on the Tropical Andes, we show that, of 59 earthquakes (1900-2021) the effects of which intersect with known glacier lakes, only one has triggered GLOFs. We argue that, to help develop climate resilient protocols, the focus for future assessments should be on understanding other key GLOF drivers, such as thawing permafrost and underlying structural geology.
22 Feb 2024Submitted to ESS Open Archive
28 Feb 2024Published in ESS Open Archive