In February of 2021 a devasting ‘natural’ disaster occurred in Uttarakhand, India. At first, debate centred around the origin, was it a glacial lake outburst flood? Was it a landslide? Very rapidly, a group of more than 50 scientists began to unravel the ‘Chamoli’ event as it became informally known: it was a large rock-ice avalanche that transformed into a debris flow, and then a debris flood. It is perhaps an exemplar of a hazard cascade, why disasters are not natural, why precursors matter, and, of the interactions of natural hazards with people and infrastructure, particularly hydropower. Almost all of the fatalities were involved with the HEP projects, and, many were not local – a very different exposure and vulnerability picture than the background long-term risk.
In this talk Dr Stuart Dunning will touch on Chamoli, but also reflect on what we know about such large events and their legacy in landscapes – including landslide dams and rock avalanches in Bhutan, Pakistan, Greenland and the UK. We have been studying the science of fatal rock avalanches since the days of Albert Heim in the late 1800’s – how far have we gone since in reducing the risk? Sometimes we need to study landscapes of near zero current risk to understand what the hazard trajectories are for rapidly deglaciating regions at risk of increased GLOFs and rock avalanches, which need setting in the global context of dynamic vulnerability and exposure.
More information and ticket booking here.