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High Mountain Glaciers and Climate Change: Challenges to Human Livelihoods and Adaptation

07 Dec 2010

Climate change is causing significant mass loss of glaciers in high mountains worldwide. Although glacier systems show a great amount of inherent complexity and variation, there are clear overall trends indicating global glacier recession, which is likely to accelerate in coming decades. Large gaps remain in our understanding and ability to model accurately the key processes and cause-effect relationships driving glacier response to climate change. In addition, a lot of data on glacier mass changes are not available to the public due to national interests concerning water supply.

One of the chief challenges in the coming decades will be to capture and store excess water during periods of high water availability. We are likely to experience more extreme melting, as well as extreme events of rainfall. With great land-use pressures in many mountain regions, including deforestation and heavy grazing combined with extreme rainfall, flash- floods and flooding will likely increase. New and more effective systems in both capturing and storing water will become essential in the future. This includes both installation of new water capture and storage methods, as well as re-introduction of some of the ancient traditional irrigation systems, such as the qanat, foggara, karez or falaj systems known from desert regions, and the zabo, pokhari, johad and pyne systems known from hilly regions.

Tags: climate change mountains polar water

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