Debris flows triggered by glacier lake outbursts have repeatedly caused disasters in various high-mountain regions of the world. Accelerated change of glacial and periglacial environments due to atmospheric warming and increased anthropogenic development in most of these areas raise the need for an adequate hazard assessment and corresponding modelling. The purpose of this paper is to pro-vide a modelling approach which takes into account the current evolution of the glacial environment and satisfies a robust first-order assessment of hazards from glacier-lake outbursts.
Two topography-based GIS-models simulating debris flows related to outbursts from glacier lakes are presented and applied for two lake outburst events in the southern Swiss Alps. The models are based on information about glacier lakes derived from remote sensing data, and on digital elevation models (DEM). Hydrological flow routing is used to simulate the debris flow resulting from the lake outburst. Thereby, a multiple- and a single-flow-direction approach are applied. Debris-flow propagation is given in probability-related values indicating the hazard potential of a certain location. The debris flow runout distance is calculated on the basis of empirical data on average slope trajectory. The results show that the multiple-flow-direction approach generally yields a more detailed propagation. The single-flow-direction approach, however, is more robust against DEM artifacts and, hence, more suited for process automation. The model is tested with three differently generated DEMs (including aero-photogrammetry- and satellite image-derived). Potential application of the respective DEMs is discussed with a special focus on satellite-derived DEMs for use in remote high-mountain areas.