Articles | Volume 12, issue 10
Research article
19 Oct 2012
Research article |  | 19 Oct 2012

An approach for estimating the breach probabilities of moraine-dammed lakes in the Chinese Himalayas using remote-sensing data

X. Wang, S. Liu, Y. Ding, W. Guo, Z. Jiang, J. Lin, and Y. Han

Abstract. To make first-order estimates of the probability of moraine-dammed lake outburst flood (MDLOF) and prioritize the probabilities of breaching posed by potentially dangerous moraine-dammed lakes (PDMDLs) in the Chinese Himalayas, an objective approach is presented. We first select five indicators to identify PDMDLs according to four predesigned criteria. The climatic background was regarded as the climatic precondition of the moraine-dam failure, and under different climatic preconditions, we distinguish the trigger mechanisms of MDLOFs and subdivide them into 17 possible breach modes, with each mode having three or four components; we combined the precondition, modes and components to construct a decision-making tree of moraine-dam failure. Conversion guidelines were established so as to quantify the probabilities of components of a breach mode employing the historic performance method combined with expert knowledge and experience. The region of the Chinese Himalayas was chosen as a study area where there have been frequent MDLOFs in recent decades. The results show that the breaching probabilities (P) of 142 PDMDLs range from 0.037 to 0.345, and they can be further categorized as 43 lakes with very high breach probabilities (P ≥ 0.24), 47 lakes with high breach probabilities (0.18 ≤ P < 0.24), 24 lakes with mid-level breach probabilities (0.12 ≤ P < 0.18), 24 lakes with low breach probabilities (0.06 ≤ P < 0.12), and four lakes with very low breach probabilities (p < 0.06).