Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Century Of Thirst For World's Mountains

Date:
May 19, 2006
Source:
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Summary:
By the century's end, the Andes in South America will have less than half their current winter snowpack, mountain ranges in Europe and the US West will have lost nearly half of their snow-bound water, and snow on New Zealand's picturesque snowcapped peaks will all but have vanished. Such is the dramatic forecast from a new, full-century Pacific Northwest National Laboratory model that offers detail its authors call "an unprecedented picture of climate change."

The most detailed climate model to date of global mountain ranges compares snow-water concentrations between now (top) and the century's end, as reflected in the percentage of snow-water that will remain on the peaks. South America, Europe,Western United States and New Zealand are projected to be the hardest hit by warming-induced snowmelt.
Credit: Image courtesy of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

By the century's end, the Andes in South America will have less than half their current winter snowpack, mountain ranges in Europe and the U.S. West will have lost nearly half of their snow-bound water, and snow on New Zealand's picturesque snowcapped peaks will all but have vanished.

Such is the dramatic forecast from a new, full-century model that offers detail its authors call "an unprecedented picture of climate change." The decline in winter snowpack means less spring and summer runoff from snowmelt. That translates to unprecedented pressure on people worldwide who depend on summertime melting of the winter snowpack for irrigation and drinking water.

Hardest hit are mountains in temperate zones where temperatures remain freezing only at increasingly higher elevations, said Steven J. Ghan, staff scientist at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and lead author of a study describing the model in the current Journal of Climate. PNNL scientist Timothy Shippert was co-author.

Alaska in 2100 will maintain but 64 percent of its year 2000 snowpack. In Europe, the Alps will be at 61 percent and Scandinavia 56 percent. The Sierras, Cascades and southern Rockies will be at 57 percent of current levels. The Andes will drop to 45. And Mt. Cook and its snowcapped neighbors in New Zealand will be much less scenic at 16 percent of current.

Ghan said the model, which actually simulated years 1977 to 2100 to use known data as calibration, differs from past attempts because it generates snow information for small areas -- 5 kilometer grids, or about 3-miles -- on mountains ranges over such a long period.

"Global climate models have never been run at 5 kilometers resolution for a period covering more than a couple of months," Ghan said, "even on the biggest computers in the world."

Ghan deployed a divide-and-conquer method to data crunching called "physically-based global downscaling" he and colleagues had used previously on mountains in the U.S. West. The world's mountain ranges are chopped into 10 different "elevation classes." For each elevation class, data such as air circulation, moisture and temperature is used to determine snowfall to the surface. The surface snow is then distributed across the grids according to the local surface elevation.

The entire century-plus simulation, based on the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Model funded by the National Science Foundation and DOE, can be run on a modest supercomputer over a few weeks. Ghan and Shippert used one at the PNNL-based W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

Ghan cautioned about "significant limitations" to the model. For example, field observations in Africa suggest the famous snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro will be gone within decades, and on Greenland signs point to accelerated snow and ice melt.

"This climate model doesn't show that," Ghan said. "That doesn't mean Kilimanjaro and Greenland aren't in trouble. But our model doesn't account for all of the snow loss that is possible. Our model neglects downward flow of snow by avalanches and snow slides, glacial creep in places where snowfall is heavy and the snow doesn't have time to melt."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "New Century Of Thirst For World's Mountains." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 May 2006. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060519102250.htm>.
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. (2006, May 19). New Century Of Thirst For World's Mountains. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060519102250.htm
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "New Century Of Thirst For World's Mountains." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/05/060519102250.htm (accessed April 16, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

How Mt. Everest Helped Scientists Research Diabetes

Newsy (Apr. 15, 2014) British researchers were able to use Mount Everest's low altitudes to study insulin resistance. They hope to find ways to treat diabetes. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

The Walking, Talking Oil-Drigging Rig

Reuters - Business Video Online (Apr. 15, 2014) Pennsylvania-based Schramm is incorporating modern technology in its next generation oil-drigging rigs, making them smaller, safer and smarter. Ernest Scheyder reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

In Washington, a Push to Sterilize Stray Cats

AFP (Apr. 14, 2014) To curb the growing numbers of feral cats in the US capital, the Washington Humane Society is encouraging residents to set traps and bring the animals to a sterilization clinic, after which they are released.. Duration: 02:29 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Dutch Highway Introduces Glow-In-The-Dark Paint

Newsy (Apr. 14, 2014) A Dutch highway has become the first lit by glow-in-the-dark paint — a project aimed at reducing street light use. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins