Slope Stability and Glacier Lake Monitoring

The hazard of glacier lake outburst floods

Among glacier hazards, glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs) are especially devastating and represent the glacial threat with the farthest potential reach, up to hundred kilometers and more downstream of the glacier lake that burst out. Typically, glacier lake outbursts are a part of complex chain reactions and process interactions, for instance when sudden slope failures above a lake cause impact waves that trigger destabilization of a lake dam that would otherwise remained stable. In fact, severe disasters were caused in the past by outbursts from glacial lakes in various high-mountain regions of the world, including the Andes, the Himalayas, Caucasus and Central Asia, North America, and the European Alps. In the course of ongoing glacier retreat in all these regions, new lakes formed in the recent past and are expected to form in the near future, providing new hazard situations beyond historical experience.


S:GLA:MO (Slope Stability and Glacier Lake Monitoring) aims at providing remote sensing derived information on glacier lakes, glacier lake extents and changes of it; but also detection, monitoring and modeling of slope instabilities and of glaciers surrounding the lakes. Besides the mapping and monitoring of glacier lakes, this data has the potential to assess the hazard situation and forecast potential lake outbursts based on optical and synthetic aperture radar (SAR) data with high and very-high resolutions.

The study sites

Study sites of the project are located in Switzerland (Valais) as data-rich test sites, in the Andes (Peru, Cordillera Blanca), Central Asia (Tajikistan), and South Greenland. Local partners, including governmental and non-governmental organizations, with a need for such information on glacier lakes and related developments are actively involved in the project as service users.

The project is lead by GAMMA Remote Sensing and Consulting AG, a Swiss remote sensing corporation.

Glacial lake, GLOF, landslides, hazards, EO, InSAR, Switzerland, Peru, Central Asia, Greenland
2014 – 2016
Project website
  • Gamma Remote Sensing
  • Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo
ESA (European Space Agency)
  • Huggel, C., Frey, H., Klimeš, J., Strozzi, T., Caduff, R., Cochachin, A. 2017 Contribution of Earth Observation to landslide early warning pdf White Paper, ESA Alcantara No. 5: InSAR and Landslides in Peru
  • Klimeš, J., Novotný, J., Novotná, I., de Urries, B. J., Vilímek, V., Emmer, A., Strozzi, T., Kusák, M., Rapre, A. C., Hartvich, F., Frey, H. 2016 Landslides in moraines as triggers of glacial lake outburst floods: example from Palcacocha Lake (Cordillera Blanca, Peru) pdf Landslides, 13, 1461–1477
  • Wiesmann, A., Strozzi, T., Caduff, R., Frey, H., Huggel, C., Mätzler, E., Abermann, J., Petersen, D., Kääb, A. 2016 S:GLA:MO - Slope stability and Glacial LAke Monitoring Service pdf Executive Summary
  • Frey, H., Kääb, A., Huggel, C., Wiesmann, A., Strozzi, T. 2015 Checklist for glacier lake hazard assessments pdf Version 3.1, University of Zurich