Summary: On the impact of the climate change in mountain regions
Air temperature in most mountain regions increases above the global average. With some exceptions, the world‘s mountain glaciers are losing their ice mass. In the arid and semi-arid regions, many small and medium-sized mountain glaciers have already disappeared and therefore their rivers carry water only during the rainy season.
As a result, these countries are faced with a big challenge in supplying the population with drinking water. The rivers Brahmaputra, Indus, Ganges Yangtze, Irrawaddy, Mekong and Yellow River, which originate from the high mountains of Asia, supplied more than one billion people with drinking water.
Potential fluctuations of the monsoon as consequence of the global warming could have far-reaching implications for these rivers. Europe is also threatened. Alpine glaciers lost from 1850 to 1975, almost half of their volume, and since 2000, the annual loss amounts 2-3% of the remaining ice volume.
Within the next few decades, only small remnants of the Alpine glaciers are probably to remain. Power plants and waterways as well as industry and agriculture would be also affected. With global warming plants and animals change their distribution limits. This process results in a high pressure of competition between species. Especially slow-growing alpine plants are increasingly under a physiological stress.
Projections based on models indicate a strong habitat loss and a decline in biodiversity. Since the frequency of extreme weather events such as heavy rainfall shows with climate change an upward trend, the risk of debris flows and landslides in the mountains increase. They often cause great damage with many casualties. For example, a landslide killed on 14.05.2014 over 2,100 people in Afghanistan.