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Special Issue "Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 March 2017).

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Daene C. McKinney

Department of Civil, Architectural & Environmental Engineering, University of Texas, Austin, Texas, USA
Website | E-Mail
Fax: +1-512-471-0072
Interests: impacts of climate change in mountains and glacier-dominated river basins; risk and vulnerability assessment of glacial lakes; hydrologic and water resource modeling; sustainable management of water resources; climate change adaptation; water and environmental issues in transboundary settings
Guest Editor
Dr. Alton C. Byers

Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) University of Colorado at Boulder High Mountains Adaptation Partnership (HiMAP) 107 Westridge Drive Elkins, WV 26241 USA
Website 1 | Website 2 | E-Mail
Phone: +1-(304)-636-6980
Fax: +1-(202) 234-4054
Interests: mountain geography; repeat photography; highland-lowland interactive conservation; high altitude (alpine) ecosystem conservation; climate change impacts and adaptation in high mountain regions; community-based glacial lake risk reduction projects; local adaptation plans of action for mountain communities

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Glacier-dominated areas worldwide pose unique challenges to downstream communities as they adapt to recent and continuing global climate changes. In particular, such communities have to adapt to the decreased reliability of dry season streamflow and to increased threats from glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). These areas remain among the most under-studied regions in the world, from a physical, social, and climate change perspective. This Special Issue will involve a wide cross section of high glaciated mountain countries—Nepal, Bhutan, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Canada, and the US (Alaska), etc., with all of the major glaciated mountain ranges represented. Papers will address both the scientific research on these areas as well as the physical and social impacts on communities present there.  The need for, and use of, scientific research results to aid communities to achieve development and climate change adaptation goals will be emphasized.

Prof. Dr. Daene C. McKinney
Dr. Alton C. Byers
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Water is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Decision-Making Methodology for Risk Management Applied to Imja Lake in Nepal
Water 2017, 9(8), 591; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9080591
Received: 8 June 2017 / Revised: 2 August 2017 / Accepted: 2 August 2017 / Published: 8 August 2017
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (5347 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Glacial retreat causes the formation of glacier lakes with the potential of producing glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Imja Lake in Nepal is considered at risk for a GLOF. Communities in the path of a potential Imja GLOF are implementing adaptation projects, yet [...] Read more.
Glacial retreat causes the formation of glacier lakes with the potential of producing glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs). Imja Lake in Nepal is considered at risk for a GLOF. Communities in the path of a potential Imja GLOF are implementing adaptation projects, yet no quantitative data or guidance is available to understand the benefits of these projects or how to weigh benefits against the cost of implementation. We develop and demonstrate a decision-making methodology for GLOF risk management, incorporating available scientific information and uncertainty. The methodology consists of (1) identifying flooding scenarios, (2) evaluating scenario consequences, and (3) performing an economic analysis of proposed adaptation projects. The methodology is applied to assess benefits in Dingboche of lowering Imja Lake by 3, 10 and 20 m. The results show that the baseline case (no lake lowering) has the lowest expected cost because of low valuation of agricultural land and homes in the literature. Nonetheless, the result is sensitive to changes in the analysis variables. We also found that lowering the lake by 10 or 20 m is efficient according only to the methodology used here; however, considering only direct economic damages and literature cost estimates, the costs outweigh the benefits for these projects. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Bridging Glaciological and Hydrological Trends in the Pamir Mountains, Central Asia
Water 2017, 9(6), 422; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9060422
Received: 22 March 2017 / Revised: 27 May 2017 / Accepted: 4 June 2017 / Published: 13 June 2017
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Abstract
With respect to meteorological changes and glacier evolution, the southern Pamir Mountains are a transition zone between the Pamirs, Hindu Kush and Karakoram, which are water towers of Central Asia. In this study, we compare runoff and climate trends in multiple time periods [...] Read more.
With respect to meteorological changes and glacier evolution, the southern Pamir Mountains are a transition zone between the Pamirs, Hindu Kush and Karakoram, which are water towers of Central Asia. In this study, we compare runoff and climate trends in multiple time periods with glacial changes reported in the literature. Recent glacier evolution in the Southern Pamirs and its contribution to river runoff are studied in detail. Uncertainties of estimating glacier retreat contribution to runoff are addressed. Runoff trends in the Pamir-Hindu Kush-Karakoram region appear to be a strong proxy for glacier evolution because they exhibit the same spatial pattern as glacial change. There is an anomaly in the North-West Pamirs and Northern Karakoram, showing decreasing runoff trends. In the opposite way, there is a glacier and hydrological change experienced in the Southern Pamirs and Hindu Kush. The prevailing hypothesis for the Karakoram Anomaly, decreasing summer temperatures along with increasing precipitation rates, seems to be valid for the North-Western Pamirs, as well. In the Southern Pamirs, temperature trends have been rising since 1950. Here, the unique water cycle of exclusively winter precipitation does not protect glaciers from accelerated retreat. Snow cover is preset to melt within the seasonal water cycle, due to much lower precipitation amounts falling on glaciers. Therefore, a probable increase in westerly precipitation in both regions causes glacier mass gain in the Northern Pamirs and rising river flows in the Southern Pamirs. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Thermal and Physical Investigations into Lake Deepening Processes on Spillway Lake, Ngozumpa Glacier, Nepal
Water 2017, 9(5), 362; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9050362
Received: 15 March 2017 / Revised: 1 May 2017 / Accepted: 15 May 2017 / Published: 22 May 2017
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (5949 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
This paper investigates physical processes in the four sub-basins of Ngozumpa glacier’s terminal Spillway Lake for the period 2012–2014 in order to characterize lake deepening and mass transfer processes. Quantifying the growth and deepening of this terminal lake is important given its close [...] Read more.
This paper investigates physical processes in the four sub-basins of Ngozumpa glacier’s terminal Spillway Lake for the period 2012–2014 in order to characterize lake deepening and mass transfer processes. Quantifying the growth and deepening of this terminal lake is important given its close vicinity to Sherpa villages down-valley. To this end, the following are examined: annual, daily and hourly temperature variations in the water column, vertical turbidity variations and water level changes and map lake floor sediment properties and lake floor structure using open water side-scan sonar transects. Roughness and hardness maps from sonar returns reveal lake floor substrates ranging from mud, to rocky debris and, in places, bare ice. Heat conduction equations using annual lake bottom temperatures and sediment properties are used to calculate bottom ice melt rates (lake floor deepening) for 0.01 to 1-m debris thicknesses. In areas of rapid deepening, where low mean bottom temperatures prevail, thin debris cover or bare ice is present. This finding is consistent with previously reported localized regions of lake deepening and is useful in predicting future deepening. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessArticle
Compiling an Inventory of Glacier-Bed Overdeepenings and Potential New Lakes in De-Glaciating Areas of the Peruvian Andes: Approach, First Results, and Perspectives for Adaptation to Climate Change
Water 2017, 9(5), 336; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9050336
Received: 31 December 2016 / Revised: 19 April 2017 / Accepted: 23 April 2017 / Published: 9 May 2017
Cited by 9 | PDF Full-text (14864 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Global warming causes rapid shrinking of mountain glaciers. New lakes can, thus, form in the future where overdeepenings in the beds of still-existing glaciers are becoming exposed. Such new lakes can be amplifiers of natural hazards to downstream populations, but also constitute tourist [...] Read more.
Global warming causes rapid shrinking of mountain glaciers. New lakes can, thus, form in the future where overdeepenings in the beds of still-existing glaciers are becoming exposed. Such new lakes can be amplifiers of natural hazards to downstream populations, but also constitute tourist attractions, offer new potential for hydropower, and may be of interest for water management. Identification of sites where future lakes will possibly form is, therefore, an essential step to initiate early planning of measures for risk reduction and sustainable use as part of adaptation strategies with respect to impacts from climate change. In order to establish a corresponding knowledge base, a systematic inventory of glacier-bed overdeepenings and possible future lakes was compiled for the still glacierized parts of the Peruvian Andes using the 2003–2010 glacier outlines from the national glacier inventory and the SRTM DEM from the year 2000. The resulting inventory contains 201 sites with overdeepened glacier beds >1 ha (104 m2) where notable future lakes could form, representing a total volume of about 260 million m3. A rough classification was assigned for the most likely formation time of the possible new lakes. Such inventory information sets the stage for analyzing sustainable use and hazard/risk for specific basins or regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessArticle
Hydrologic Controls and Water Vulnerabilities in the Naryn River Basin, Kyrgyzstan: A Socio-Hydro Case Study of Water Stressors in Central Asia
Water 2017, 9(5), 325; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9050325
Received: 16 March 2017 / Revised: 28 April 2017 / Accepted: 3 May 2017 / Published: 5 May 2017
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (3488 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Water vulnerabilities in Central Asia are affected by a complex combination of climate-sensitive water sources, trans-boundary political tensions, infrastructure deficiencies and a lack of water management organization from community to federal levels. This study aims to clarify the drivers of water stress across [...] Read more.
Water vulnerabilities in Central Asia are affected by a complex combination of climate-sensitive water sources, trans-boundary political tensions, infrastructure deficiencies and a lack of water management organization from community to federal levels. This study aims to clarify the drivers of water stress across the 440 km Naryn River basin, headwater stem to the Syr Darya and the disappearing North Aral Sea. We use a combination of human and physical geography approaches to understand the meltwater-controlled hydrology of the system (using hydrochemical mixing models) as well as the human-water experience (via community surveys). Surveys indicate that current water stress is primarily a function of water management and access issues resulting from the clunky transition from Soviet era large-scale agriculture to post-Soviet small-plot farming. Snow and ice meltwaters play a dominant role in the surface and ground water supplies to downstream communities across the study’s 4220 m elevation gradient, so future increases to water stress due to changes in volume and timing of water supply is likely given frozen waters’ high sensitivities to warming temperatures. The combined influence of social, political and climate-induced pressures on water supplies in the Naryn basin suggest the need for proactive planning and adaptation strategies, and warrant concern for similar melt-sourced Central Asian watersheds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessArticle
Modeling Glacier Mass Balance and Runoff in the Koxkar River Basin on the South Slope of the Tianshan Mountains, China, from 1959 to 2009
Water 2017, 9(2), 100; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9020100
Received: 28 October 2016 / Revised: 18 January 2017 / Accepted: 22 January 2017 / Published: 8 February 2017
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (5323 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Water resources provided by alpine glaciers are an important pillar for people in the arid regions of west China. In this study, the Hydrologiska Byrans Vattenavdelning (HBV) light model was applied to simulate glacier mass balance (GMB) and runoff in the Koxkar River [...] Read more.
Water resources provided by alpine glaciers are an important pillar for people in the arid regions of west China. In this study, the Hydrologiska Byrans Vattenavdelning (HBV) light model was applied to simulate glacier mass balance (GMB) and runoff in the Koxkar River Basin (KRB) on the south slope of Mount Tumur, in the western Tianshan Mountains. Daily temperature and precipitation were calculated by multiple linear regressions and gradient-inverse distance weighting, respectively, based on in-situ observed data by automatic weather stations (AWSs) in the Koxkar River Basin (KRB; 2007–2009) and four meteorological stations neighboring the basin (1959–2009). Observed daily air temperature and precipitation were input into HBV model. The runoff data in 2007/2008 and 2008/2009 were used to calibrate and validate the model in 2009/2010 and 2010/2011. Generally, the model simulated runoff very well. The annual glacier mass balance and runoff were calculated by the HBV model and were driven by interpolated meteorological data between 1959 and 2009. The calculated glacier mass balances were reasonable, and were compared with nearby glaciers. The results indicate the decreasing trend of mass balance in the Koxkar Glacier, with an average value of ablation of −370.4 mm·a−1 between 1959 and 2009. The annual runoff showed an increasing trend (5.51 mm·a−1). Further analysis showed that the runoff is more sensitive to temperature than precipitation in KRB. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Open AccessArticle
Morphometric Controls on Glacier Mass Balance of the Puruogangri Ice Field, Central Tibetan Plateau
Water 2016, 8(11), 496; https://doi.org/10.3390/w8110496
Received: 30 July 2016 / Revised: 10 October 2016 / Accepted: 25 October 2016 / Published: 1 November 2016
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (6642 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Evaluating the impacts of climatic changes and morphometric features on glacier mass balance is crucial to providing insight into glacier changes and their effects on regional water resources and ecosystems. Here, we presented an evaluation of morphometric effects on the glacier mass balances [...] Read more.
Evaluating the impacts of climatic changes and morphometric features on glacier mass balance is crucial to providing insight into glacier changes and their effects on regional water resources and ecosystems. Here, we presented an evaluation of morphometric effects on the glacier mass balances of the Puruogangri ice field (PIF) on the Tibetan Plateau. A clear spatial variability of glacier mass balances, ranging from −0.035 to +0.019 m·w.e.·year−1, was estimated by comparing the TanDEM-X DEM (2012) with the SRTM-X DEM (2000). In general, the observed glacier mass changes were consistent with our fieldwork investigations. Furthermore, by applying the method of linear regression analysis, we found that the mass changes of individual glaciers on the PIF were mainly dominated by the mean altitude (R = 0.84, p < 0.001), however, they were statistically independent of glacier size, aspect, and surface velocity. At a local scale (grid size of 10 × 10 pixels), apart from the factor of altitude, surface velocity was correlated with glacier mass change. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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Review

Jump to: Research

Open AccessReview
Robust Adaptation Research in High Mountains: Integrating the Scientific, Social, and Ecological Dimensions of Glacio-Hydrological Change
Water 2017, 9(10), 739; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9100739
Received: 1 August 2017 / Revised: 25 September 2017 / Accepted: 25 September 2017 / Published: 28 September 2017
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (225 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Climate-related changes in glacierized watersheds are widely documented, stimulating adaptive responses among the 370 million people living in glacier-influenced watersheds as well as aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The situation denotes important interdependencies between science, society, and ecosystems, yet integrative approaches to the study [...] Read more.
Climate-related changes in glacierized watersheds are widely documented, stimulating adaptive responses among the 370 million people living in glacier-influenced watersheds as well as aquatic and riparian ecosystems. The situation denotes important interdependencies between science, society, and ecosystems, yet integrative approaches to the study of adaptation to such changes remain scarce in both the mountain- and non-mountain-focused adaptation scholarship. Using the example of glacio-hydrological change, it is argued here that this analytical limitation impedes the identification, development, and implementation of “successful” adaptations. In response, the paper introduces three guiding principles for robust adaptation research in glaciated mountain regions. Principle 1: Adaptation research should integrate detailed analyses of watershed-specific glaciological and hydro-meteorological conditions; glacio-hydrological changes are context-specific and therefore cannot be assumed to follow idealized trajectories of “peak water”. Principle 2: Adaptation research should consider the complex interplay between glacio-hydrological changes and socio-economic, cultural, and political conditions; responses to environmental changes are non-deterministic and therefore not deducible from hydrological changes alone. Principle 3: Adaptation research should be attentive to interdependencies, feedbacks, and tradeoffs between human and ecological responses to glacio-hydrological change; research that does not evaluate these socio-ecological dynamics may lead to maladaptive adaptation plans. These principles call attention to the linked scientific, social, and ecological dimensions of adaptation, and offer a point of departure for future climate change adaptation research in high mountains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
Open AccessFeature PaperReview
Climate–Glacier Dynamics and Topographic Forcing in the Karakoram Himalaya: Concepts, Issues and Research Directions
Water 2017, 9(6), 405; https://doi.org/10.3390/w9060405
Received: 31 March 2017 / Revised: 25 May 2017 / Accepted: 1 June 2017 / Published: 6 June 2017
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (14610 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Understanding climate-glacier dynamics in High Mountain Asia is of critical importance to address issues including water resources, sea-level rise, mountain geodynamics, natural hazards and ecosystem sustainability. The Karakoram Himalaya is arguably the least understood region, given its extreme topography, climate-system coupling, and advancing [...] Read more.
Understanding climate-glacier dynamics in High Mountain Asia is of critical importance to address issues including water resources, sea-level rise, mountain geodynamics, natural hazards and ecosystem sustainability. The Karakoram Himalaya is arguably the least understood region, given its extreme topography, climate-system coupling, and advancing and surge-type glaciers that exhibit complex flow patterns. Glacier fluctuations in the Karakoram Himalaya are highly variable in space and time because of numerous controlling factors, including the westerlies, the Indian summer monsoon, various teleconnections, topographic effects, glacier debris-cover characteristics, glacier dynamics, and geological conditions. The influence of the integrative coupling of forcing factors, however, has not been adequately assessed for characterizing the glaciers in the Karakoram Himalaya. Given the scarcity of in-situ data and the difficulty of conducting fieldwork on these glaciers, recent research has focused on utilizing remote sensing, geospatial technologies, and scientific modeling to obtain baseline information about the state of glaciers in the region. This review summarizes our current knowledge of glaciers, climate-glacier interaction, and topographic forcing in the Karakoram Himalaya, and demonstrates the complexities in mountain geodynamics that influence climate-glacier dynamics. Innovative analysis is also presented in support of our review and discussion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Warming Impacts on Mountain Glaciers and Communities)
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