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A massive rock and ice avalanche caused the 2021 disaster at Chamoli, Indian Himalaya

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Stuart DunningORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2021.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


On 7 Feb 2021, a catastrophic mass flow descended the Ronti Gad, Rishiganga, and Dhauliganga valleys in Chamoli, Uttarakhand, India, causing widespread devastation and severely damaging two hydropower projects. Over 200 people were killed or are missing. Our analysis of satellite imagery, seismic records, numerical model results, and eyewitness videos reveals that ~27x106 m3 of rock and glacier ice collapsed from the steep north face of Ronti Peak. The rock and ice avalanche rapidly transformed into an extraordinarily large and mobile debris flow that transported boulders >20 m in diameter, and scoured the valley walls up to 220 m above the valley floor. The intersection of the hazard cascade with downvalley infrastructure resulted in a disaster, which highlights key questions about adequate monitoring and sustainable development in the Himalaya as well as other remote, high-mountain environments.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Shugar DH, Jacquemart M, Shean D, Bhushan S, Upadhyay K, Sattar A, Schwanghart W, McBride S, de Vries MVW, Mergili M, Emmer A, Deschamps-Berger C, McDonnell M, Bhambri R, Allen S, Berthier E, Carrivick JL, Clague JJ, Dokukin M, Dunning SA, Frey H, Gascoin S, Haritashya UK, Huggel C, Kääb A, Kargel JS, Kavanaugh JL, Lacroix P, Petley D, Rupper S, Azam MF, Cook SJ, Dimri AP, Eriksson M, Farinotti D, Fiddes J, Gnyawali KR, Harrison S, Jha M, Koppes M, Kumar A, Leinss S, Majeed U, Mal S, Muhuri A, Noetzli J, Paul F, Rashid I, Sain K, Steiner J, Ugalde F, Watson CS, Westoby MJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science

Year: 2021

Volume: 373

Issue: 6552

Pages: 300-306

Print publication date: 16/07/2021

Online publication date: 10/06/2021

Acceptance date: 27/05/2021

Date deposited: 22/06/2021

ISSN (print): 0036-8075

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9203

Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science


DOI: 10.1126/science.abh4455


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