Bhutan’s is exposed to earthquakes, flooding, wildfire, landslides, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs) and windstorms. The countries urban areas are vulnerable to urban flooding, and extreme heat in the south. According to historical data, flooding occurs most frequently and is responsible for the largest percentage of mortality (Preventionweb). The country is exposed to earthquakes and has experienced twelve earthquakes, many magnitude 7.0 in the last half century including a 2009 earthquake that generated $97 million in losses and needs (GFDRR). The majority of the country’s agricultural land and infrastructure is located along drainage basins that are highly vulnerable to flooding, particularly riverine flooding caused by heavy monsoon rains and glacial melt. Risk is concentrated in the center and north western regions of the country as well as Samtse province. The country also has high risk for wildfires, particularly in the center and southern portions of the country. Climate change could impact the impact the intensity and frequency of flooding, landslides, Glacial Lake Outburst Floods, and windstorms while also increasing the risk of wildfire.
This section provides a summary of key natural hazards and their associated socioeconomic impacts in a given country. And it allows quick evaluation of most vulnerable areas through the spatial comparison of natural hazard data with development data, thereby identifying exposed livelihoods and natural systems.
The charts provide overview of the most frequent natural disaster in a given country and understand the impacts of those disasters on human populations.
Climate change is now recognized to have a significant impact on disaster management efforts and pose a significant threat to the efforts to meet the growing needs of the most vulnerable populations. The demands of disaster risk management are such that concise, clear, and reliable information is crucial. The information presented here offers insight into the frequency, impact and occurrence of natural hazards. Source (PDF)
Understanding natural hazard occurrence as well as historical climate conditions, in relation to development contexts, is critical to understanding a country’s historical vulnerability. This tool allows the visualization of different natural hazards or historical climate conditions with socio-economic and development datasets. Select the Development Context and either a Natural Hazard or Climate Condition and overlay horizontally by sliding the toggle left or right to gain a broader sense of historically vulnerable areas.
Data presented under Historical Climate Conditions are reanalysis products derived from ERA5-Land data. ERA5-Land is a global land-surface dataset at 9 km resolution, consistent with atmospheric data from the ERA5 reanalysis from 1950 onward. Climate reanalyses combine past observations with models to generate consistent time series of multiple climate variables. They provide a comprehensive description of the observed climate as it has evolved during recent decades, on 3D grids at sub-daily intervals.
This data has been collected, aggregated and processed by the Climate Resilience Cluster of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Earth Observation for Sustainable Development (EO4SD) initiative.
- The retreat of glaciers leads to the formation of supra-glacial lake. When these glacial lakes burst, in a Glacial Lake Outburst Flood (GLOF) they generate flash flooding and significant damage in Bhutan’s river valleys, the highest concentration of economic activity. This risk is highest in Bhutan’s northern region and in areas near glacier and snow-fed lakes.
- Bhutan’s steep slopes and precipitation patterns make it vulnerable to impact from landslides. Changes in precipitation extreme events are projected to become more abundant and translate to flash floods as well as landslides. These hazards can threaten agricultural land and communities.
- Provinces bordering the southern border are considered to have high risk to extreme heat events with implications for human health and agriculture. Rising temperatures and precipitation could also change transmission patterns for vector borne diseases. Higher temperatures will also impact the north by influencing glacier melt.
- The risk of Glacial Lake Outburst Floods is increasing as changes in temperatures and precipitation affect glacier formation. The North of Bhutan has about 77 mountain glaciers and 2,674 glacial lakes of which 25 pose a medium to high risks of GLOFs (Kingdom of Bhutan).
- Forests have already experiencing impacts of climate change that make them more vulnerable to forest fires and diseases. Recent trends reflect changes in phenology, forest structure, and incidence of pests as is the case with bark beetle outbreaks in spruce forests (2nd National Communication).
- Flooding associated, especially near monsoon season, happens most frequently and is the primary cause of mortality from natural disasters (Prevention Web).
- Bhutan’s disaster risk management framework has four priority action areas: improving understanding of disaster risks; strengthening risk governance system; investing in DRR for resilience; and strengthening disaster management capabilities (Kingdom of Bhutan).
- Bhutan has made investments in disaster management by developing weather forecasting system, landslide management and flood prevention projects, and community-based forest fire management and prevention programs (UNDP).
- The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development building has researched the status of gender, vulnerabilities, and adaptation to climate change.
- Changes in precipitation patterns can also create stress on forests and make them more vulnerable to diseases and pests. The Ministry of Agriculture has recognized the importance of forests for soil health and erosion control and natural disaster mitigation as they prevent landslides and reduce the impact of flash floods (2nd National Communication).