Global Mountain Water Security

Climate Impacts on Global Mountain Water Security


Convenors : Dr. John Pomeroy, Director, Global Water Futures, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada and Dr. Chris DeBeer, Science Manager, Global Water Futures, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

Speakers :

  1. John Pomeroy, Director, Global Water Futures, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada
  2. Robert Sandford, Institute for Water, Environment and Health (INWEH), United Nations University, Hamilton, Canada
  3. Ignacio Lopez Moreno, Institute for Pyrenean Ecology (IPE), Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Zaragoza, Spain
  4. Dhiraj Pradhananga, Dept. of Meteorology and Hydrology, Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal
  5. Chris DeBeer, Global Water Futures, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Canada

Mountain headwater catchments receive and produce a disproportionately large fraction of global precipitation and streamflow, including essential water supplies for vast downstream areas that include at least one-half of humanity. Ongoing climate warming has already resulted in shorter seasonal snowcover duration, glacier wastage, earlier rise in spring hydrographs, reduced streamflow volume contribution from snowmelt, increases in icemelt and higher frequency of rain-on-snow floods, with follow-on impacts on glacier mass balance, mountain floods, changes in the timing and volume of mountain-derived streamflow and vegetation community change in response to shorter snow-covered season and glacier retreat. As well, mountain communities face threats to their water security from changes to climate and water cycling including flooding and wildfires. A grand challenge currently facing society is How to develop a global scientific approach to better understand, predict and manage mountain water resources in the face of dramatically increasing risks? It is important to better understand mountain cold regions hydrological processes, improve their prediction and find consistent measurement strategies. It is hence necessary to develop transferable and validated model schemes of different complexity that can support research in data sparse mountain areas. This leads to the following research questions:

  1. What control does climate change have on the predictability, uncertainty and security of mountain water?
  2. What improvements to the global predictability of mountain water resources are possible through improved physics, downscaling, data collection and assimilation in models?
  3. How do transient changes in perennial snowpacks, glaciers, ground frost, and vegetation impact mountain water resource predictions?

The International Network for Alpine Research Catchment Hydrology (INARCH; http://www.usask.ca/inarch/) and the Global Water Futures (GWF; www.globalwaterfutures.ca) Project are major initiatives that contribute to the Global Energy and Water Exchanges (GEWEX) Hydroclimatology Panel (GHP; http://www.gewex.org/panels/gewex-hydroclimatology-panel/). Leveraging these strong networks of research, a working group on “Climate Impacts on Global Mountain Water Security” has been formed as a contribution to the Future Earth Sustainable Water Future Programme, and will address the issues of climate and cryospheric change, and the associated impacts to hydrological functioning and water resources within and downstream of mountain regions globally. This group engages in and supports field-based research, and model development, testing, and application activities to address the grand challenge and questions above.

This session will include a series of presentations and a panel discussion comprised of renowned scentists from around the world, and will focus on the aims, activities, and deliverables of this working group. Examples of regional field research and modelling activities will be presented, including work in areas such as the Andes, the European Alps and the Pyrenees, Himalayas, the North American Cordillera, and a global study of impacts to representative mountain basins from every continent. The discussion will focus on how this work contributes to international initiatives such as Future Earth, GEWEX, the High Mountain initiative of the Wolrd Meteorological Organization, and the International Hydrological Programme of UNESCO. This will provide excellent opportunities for building collaborative linkages and potential expansion of the activities to other important mountain regions, and also for discussing the policy and management implications and how the results of this work can better inform these.