Andes Research

Hazards and Disasters

Hazards and Disasters

Glacier avalanches have the capacity to claim lives and destroy property, like this bus in Yungay, Peru, ripped apart by the earthquake-induced Huascarán avalanche that killed thousands on May 31, 1970.

Peruvians have experienced the most deadly glacier disasters in world history. Nearly 25,000 people have died around the Cordillera Blanca alone from glacier avalanches and glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) since 1941. A recent destructive flood occurred in April 2010 from Mount Hualcán and Lake 513, which caused significant damage in the town of Carhuaz.

Unfortunately, dangerous conditions persist as Lake Palcacocha above the city of Huaraz grows steadily and as new lakes form, such as one near Lake Artesoncocha above the city of Caraz. Carey has been studying these glacier hazards for over a decade.

For a historical analysis of social impacts and scientific/engineering developments, see his book, In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society (Oxford, 2010). His current research involves a multidisciplinary analysis of the Lake 513 flood conducted in collaboration with glaciologists Christian Huggel and Wilfried Haeberli at the University of Zurich, Jeffrey Bury at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and César Portocarrero, director of Peru's Unidad de Glaciología y Recursos Hídricos.

Related Publications

Carey, Mark, Christian Huggel, Jeffrey Bury, C├ęsar Portocarrero, and Wilfried Haeberli, "An Integrated Socio-environmental Framework for Glacier Hazard Management and Climate Change Adaptation: Lessons from Lake 513, Cordillera Blanca, Peru," Climatic Change 112, nos. 3-4 (2011): 733-767.

Carey, Mark. In the Shadow of Melting Glaciers: Climate Change and Andean Society, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Carey, Mark. "Disasters, Development, and Glacial Lake Control in Twentieth-Century Peru," in Mountains: Sources of Water, Sources of Knowledge, ed. Ellen Wiegandt (The Netherlands: Springer, 2008), 181-196. 

Carey, Mark. "The Politics of Place: Inhabiting and Defending Glacier Hazard Zones in Peru's Cordillera Blanca," in Darkening Peaks: Glacial Retreat in Scientific and Social Context, eds. Ben Orlove, Ellen Wiegandt, and Brian Luckman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008), 229-240.

Carey, Mark. "Living and Dying With Glaciers: People's Historical Vulnerability to Avalanches and Outburst Floods in Peru," Global and Planetary Change, vol. 47, no. 2-4 (July 2005): 122-134.