Anomalous Winter-Snow-Amplified Earthquake-Induced Disaster of the 2015 Langtang Avalanche in Nepal (2017)

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Coseismic avalanches and rockfalls, as well as their simultaneous air blast and muddy flow, which were induced by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal, destroyed the village of Langtang. In order to reveal volume and structure of the deposit covering the village, as well as sequence of the multiple events, we conducted an intensive in situ observation in October 2015. Multitemporal digital elevation models created from photographs taken by helicopter and unmanned aerial vehicles reveal that the deposit volumes of the primary and succeeding events were 6.81 ± 1.54  ×  106 and 0.84 ± 0.92  ×  106 m3, respectively. Visual investigations of the deposit and witness statements of villagers suggest that the primary event was an avalanche composed mostly of snow, while the collapsed glacier ice could not be dominant source for the total mass. Succeeding events were multiple rockfalls which may have been triggered by aftershocks. From the initial deposit volume and the area of the upper catchment, we estimate an average snow depth of 1.82 ± 0.46 m in the source area. This is consistent with anomalously large snow depths (1.28–1.52 m) observed at a neighboring glacier (4800–5100 m a.s.l.), which accumulated over the course of four major snowfall events between October 2014 and the earthquake on 25 April 2015. Considering long-term observational data, probability density functions, and elevation gradients of precipitation, we conclude that this anomalous winter snow was an extreme event with a return interval of at least 100 years. The anomalous winter snowfall may have amplified the disastrous effects induced by the 2015 Gorkha earthquake in Nepal.
Year: 2017
Language: English
In: Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences 17: 749-764

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