Vanishing high-mountain ice causing hydrological challenges at global to local scales: An overview with notes on Central Asia

Wilfried Haeberli

Geography Department, University of Zurich, Switzerland


Scientific Article


Glaciers and permafrost react strongly to atmospheric temperature rise. As a consequence, icy mid-latitude high-mountain environments including mountain ranges in Central Asia undergo rapid changes. Continuation of these changes must at least in part be considered unavoidable and the resulting impacts on the water cycle will be irreversible for generations to come. Primary hydrological challenges relate to sea level rise at global scale, to water supply from river discharge at continental to regional scale, and to the formation of new lakes with related options concerning hydropower, water resources or tourism and with their risks related to impact and flood waves at regional to local scales. International scientific cooperation, the use of new observational technologies and of enhanced modelling capacities together with comprehensive system analyses can form the knowledge basis for participative planning and the search for integrative solutions in adaptation strategies. Slowing down global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions will help assuring the necessary time for this difficult task. The present contribution is based on a keynote presentation at the 2018International Symposium on Water and Land Resources in Central Asia (CAWa). It reviews the current international literature on the topic in view of developing the necessary knowledge basis, including aspects related to Central Asia.

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For citation: Haeberli, W. (2019). Vanishing high-mountain ice causing hydrological challenges at global to local scales: An overview with notes on Central Asia. Central Asian Journal of Water Research, 5(2), 44–63.


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climate change, glaciers, high mountains, permafrost