Ice dams across the deepest gorge on Earth created some of the highest-elevation lakes in history. New research shows the most recent of these lakes, in the Himalaya Mountains of Tibet, broke through its ice barrier somewhere between 600 and 900 AD, causing massive torrents of water to pour through the Himalayas into India.
Geological evidence points to the existence of at least three lakes, and probably four, at various times in history when glacial ice from the Himalayas blocked the flow of the Tsangpo River in Tibet, said University of Washington geologist David Montgomery, a professor of Earth and space sciences.
Carbon dating shows the most recent lake, about 780 feet deep, burst through the ice dam between 1,100 and 1,400 years ago, rapidly draining some 50 cubic miles of water. The second lake, more than 2,200 feet deep, dates from about 10,000 years ago, and likely held more than 500 cubic miles of water. When that ice dam broke, it caused one of the greatest floods on Earth since the last ice age. The Tsangpo is the worlds highest river, with an average elevation of 13,000 feet, about 500 feet higher than South Americas Lake Titicaca, the highest lake. The Tsangpo flows to the eastern edge of Tibet before it turns south and plunges through a deep gorge into India, where it eventually becomes the Brahmaputra River and flows into the Bay of Bengal.
Vince Stricherz | EurekAlert!
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