IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

'River tsunami' tied to ice melt, swollen lake

Melting ice in southern Chile caused a glacial lake to swell and then empty suddenly, sending a "tsunami" rolling through a river, a scientist said Thursday. No one was injured in the remote region.
Chile Empty Lake
Cachet Lake in southern Chile, seen here on Monday, had emptied out suddenly on Sunday but was quickly reforming.Centro de Estudios Cientificos via AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

Melting ice in southern Chile caused a glacial lake to swell and then empty suddenly, sending a "tsunami" rolling through a river, a scientist said Thursday. No one was injured in the remote region.

Glacier scientist Gino Casassa said the melting of the Colonia glacier, which he blamed on rising world temperatures, filled the Cachet Lake and increased pressure on the ice sheet.

The water bored a 5-mile tunnel through the glacier and finally emptied into the Baker River on April 6.

"The remarkable thing is that the mass of water moved against the current of the river," Casassa told The Associated Press by telephone from the Center for Scientific Studies in the southern city of Valdivia. "It was a real river tsunami."

The lake was nearly full again by late Wednesday, he said.

Casassa said temperatures were unusually high during the recent Southern Hemisphere summer.

"This is a phenomenon that occurs periodically during the summer season, caused by the melting of large masses of ice that swell some lakes," he said. "The basic cause is global warming."

-, CHILE: View of what used to be the bottom of a glacial lake in the Magallanes region, 2000 km south of Santiago, Chile on June 4th, 2007. Until two months ago visitors could admire a 1 square km lake, that suddenly dissapeared. Scientists conjeture that an earthquake could had opened a fissure in the rocks, allowing the water to drain trough it. AFP PHOTO/ Corporacion Nacional Forestal (Photo credit should read HO/AFP/Getty Images)AFP

The Tempano glacial lake in Chile's Bernardo O'Higgins National Park abruptly disappeared last year, and has since recovered just some of its former volume.

Park rangers were stunned to find a 130-foot deep crater where a large lake had been.

Scientists blamed warming for that disappearance as well. They suggested the melting of nearby glaciers raised the lake's level to the point where the increased water pressure caused part of a glacier acting as a dam to give way.

The advance and retreat of glaciers is part of Earth's normal climate dynamics, but climate change was distorting the process, Andres Rivera, a glaciologist with the Center for Scientific Studies, said at the time. "This would not be happening if the temperature had not increased."