Climate change is at risk of damaging the unpredictable mountainous regions according to a new study.
[social_buttons]Each year we are learning more and more about our climate and the affect that we are having on it. A new study from the University of Exeter and Austrian researchers has analysed the effects of two extreme weather events on the Eastern European Alps.
The researchers analysed the massive European heatwave of 2003 which left more than 70,000 Europeans dead, and the 2005 European floods which hit several countries in Central and Eastern Europe, and found significant impact on the Eastern European Alps during those time periods.
In 2003 the mean summer temperature in the large area of the European Alps exceeded the 1961-1990 mean by 3-5˚C. Not surprisingly this caused a record Alpine glacier loss that was three times above the 1980-2000 average, as well as melting permafrost which itself caused increased rock-fall activity.
Two years later the heavy rainfall that caused the August 2005 floods was the most damaging for a hundred years. High volumes of water and sediment were thrown downstream, causing an estimated €555 million ($684 million USD) worth of damage in Austria to buildings, railways, roads and industrial areas. Switzerland has reported that the 2005 floods caused one quarter of all floods, debris flows, landslides and rock falls recorded since 1972.
“While human activity and land management are important factors, we expect that global warming will cause ongoing and accelerating ice loss in the European Alps over the next decades and centuries,” commented Jasper Knight from the University of Exeter. “This will have a significant impact on hazard type, location and frequency and a potentially negative effect on the region’s economic engine – tourism.”
One of the significant points to be drawn from this study is the reinforcement that global climate change models do not necessarily correlate down to the local level. Temperatures in the European Alps increased twice as much as the global average since the late nineteenth century, and predictions suggest that they will continue to rise by an average of 0.3-0.5˚C per decade in the next century.
Global climate models simply fail to account for variations at a local level, and this leaves the impacts on many areas on our planet unknown. This can be a massive problem in areas which are home to environmental features such as glaciers, and in high altitudes where mountaineering and skiing infrastructure are set up.
Source: University of Exeter
Image Source: nikoretro