Geophysical Research Abstracts
Vol. 16, EGU2014-15787, 2014
EGU General Assembly 2014
© Author(s) 2014. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
Reassessing Catastrophic Inﬁll of the Pokhara Valley, Nepal Himalaya
Wolfgang Schwanghart (1), Anne Bernhardt (1), Amelie Stolle (1), Basantha Adhikari (2), and Oliver Korup (1)
(1) University of Potsdam, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, Potsdam-Golm, Germany
(email@example.com), (2) Institute of Engineering, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
The Pokhara valley, home to Nepal’s second largest city and a major tourist attraction (28◦150N, 83◦580E), is
covered by 4-5 km3 and 50-100 m thick intramontane fan deposits that resulted from massive aggradation of
the Seti Khola, a river draining the Annapurna Massif of the Greater Himalaya. Poorly sorted, gravelly ﬂuvial
facies intercalated with debris-ﬂow and mud-ﬂow facies known as the Pokhara Gravels attest to highly energetic
transport conditions during one or several catastrophic ﬂow events. In May 2012, a devastative ﬂash ﬂood/debris
ﬂow in the Seti Khola rekindled interest in the formation processes and timing of the Pokhara Gravels as they may
provide constraints on the magnitudes and frequencies of similar past events.
Interpretations of previous sedimentological work and radiocarbon dating (Yamanaka, 1982; Fort, 1987)
culminated in the belief that the Pokhara Gravels were catastrophically emplaced only 500 to 1000 years ago,
although the exact nature, timing, and triggers of the purported event(s) remain obscure. Speciﬁcally, it remains
debated whether the Pokhara Gravels were deposited instantaneously, possibly within less than a year, or whether
sedimentation was more protracted over perhaps decades to millennia.
We present new geomorphological, sedimentological, geochemical, and radiocarbon data and re-assess a
potential catastrophic inﬁll of the Pokhara Valley during one or several high-magnitude events. Support for this
scenario is given by laterally continuous long-runout (∼40 km) debris-ﬂow deposits topped by large (i.e. up to
>11-m) boulders, a distinctly calcareous lithology diagnostic of a small Greater Himalayan source area tens of
kilometres upstream, and by historical anecdotes of a large ﬂood that destroyed an earlier settlement in the area.
However, we show that dated outcrops of ﬁne-grained sediments in tributaries blocked by the Pokhara Gravels
yield asynchronous ages. Although our radiocarbon dates are consistent with previously reported ones, pooled
ages may equally well reﬂect more than one depositional event. We infer that massive aggradation must have been
ongoing after rivers began incising into the Pokhara Gravels.
Yet, geochemical ﬁngerprinting of stillwater sediments located several kilometers upstream in these and
other tributary valleys suggests a common and strikingly dominant sediment source limited to the Seti Khola’s
glaciated headwaters. These ﬁndings are at odds with the sedimentology of the Pokhara Gravels that point at
one or more phases of deposition, most likely by high-magnitude events, possibly even by different transport
processes. In summary, our results call for a much more detailed enquiry into the timing and mode of emplacement
of the Pokhara Gravels in order to avoid gross misestimates of the hazard portfolio of the Pokhara valley.
A. Yamanaka. The Science Reports of Tohoku University, 7th Series (Geography), 32, 46-60 (1982).
M. Fort. Zeitsch. f. Geom. N.F., Suppl., 63, 9-36 (1987).