Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Warming Wednesdays: mountains becoming more wild?

Having a glacier like this coming flowing toward you wouldn't be any fun. Argentine Patagonia

For most people this probably isn't the most significant manifestation of global warming, but I find it fascinated and threatening.

Sharper seasonal variations of ice and snow and temperature are being repeated all across the world from the Himalayas to the Andes, which scientists say are driven by a higher level of energy in the atmosphere from global warming. As a result, climbers have to think twice about what they might expect one year to the next, or even one day to the next, in places they might have climbed for decades.

On [Alaska's Mount] McKinley, the snows this year have been prodigious, and the four avalanche deaths have tied a record last seen in 1987. And conditions have varied widely. This month, a weather station on the mountain recorded a temperature range from 21 degrees above zero to 13 below over two days, with 21 inches of snow falling in the middle, rare for July.

“The chances of having an average year are very likely going down as climate variability increases,” said Brian Lazar, the executive director of the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education and a senior scientist at Stratus Consulting, an environmental research company.

New York Times, July 15

Of course melting glaciers have more widespread consequences than increasing the risks to a few adventurous climbers. Pakistan faces high risk of both drought from decreasing melt -- and floods following sudden releases of glacial waters.

Increased melting of glaciers and snow in the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau threatens the food security of millions of people in Asia, a study shows, with Pakistan likely to be among the nations hardest hit.

…The Brahmaputra and Indus basins are also most susceptible to reductions of flow because of climate change, threatening the food security of an estimated 60 million people, or roughly the population of Italy. "The effects in the Indus and Brahmaputra basins are likely to be severe owing to the large population and the high dependence on irrigated agriculture and meltwater," the authors say in the study. ...

[The scientists] said adaptation was crucial. "The focus should be on agriculture as this is by far the largest consumer of water," [Walter Immerzeel] told Reuters in an email interview.

Reuters, June 10, 2010

If we can't or won't stop pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and fueling the "wild," we better begin to get our minds around that concept: "adaptation."
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