10 Mar 2023
 | 10 Mar 2023
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal NHESS.

Early warning system for ice collapses and river blockages in the Sedongpu Valley, southeastern Tibetan Plateau

Wei Yang, Zhongyan Wang, Baosheng An, Yingying Chen, Chuanxi Zhao, Chenhui Li, Yongjie Wang, Weicai Wang, Jiule Li, Guangjian Wu, Lin Bai, Fan Zhang, and Tandong Yao

Abstract. The Tibetan Plateau and its surroundings have recently experienced several catastrophic glacier-related disasters. It is of great scientific and practical significance to establish ground-based early warning systems (EWS) to understand the processes and mechanisms of glacial disasters and warn against potential threats to downstream settlements and infrastructure. However, there are few sophisticated EWSs on the Tibetan Plateau. With the support of the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program, an EWS was developed and implemented in the Sedongpu Valley, southeastern Tibetan Plateau, where repeated river blockages have occurred due to ice/rock collapse debris flow. The EWS collected datasets of optical/thermal videos/photos, geophone waveforms, water levels, and meteorological variables in this sparsely populated zone. It has successfully warned against three ice-rock collapse-debris flow - river blockage chain events and seven small-scale ice-rock collapse-debris flow events. Meanwhile, it was found that the low-cost geophone can effectively indicate the occurrence and magnitude of ice/rock collapses by local thresholds, and water level observation is an efficient way to warn of river blockages. Our observations showed that several factors, such as the volume and location of the collapses and the percentage of ice content involved, influence the velocities of debris flows and the magnitude of river blockages. There are still two possible glaciers in the study area that are at risk of ice collapse. It is worth monitoring their dynamic changes using high-resolution satellite data and the ground-based EWS to safeguard the surrounding hydrological projects and infrastructure in this transboundary region.

Wei Yang et al.

Status: open (until 21 Apr 2023)

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Wei Yang et al.


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Short summary
We present the structure and performance of the early warning system (EWS) for glacier collapse and river blockages in the southeastern Tibetan Plateau. The EWS warned of three collapse-river blockage chain events and seven small-scale events. The volume and location of the collapses and the percentage of ice content influenced the velocities of debris flows. Such a study is helpful for understanding the mechanism of glacier hazards and for establishing similar EWSs in other high-risk regions.