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Helmholtz Research School
Mechanisms and Interactions of Climate Change in Mountain Regions

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Climate Change

In the last two decades, Climate Change, both regional and global, has been an ongoing and often controversial topic in public debate and media. Nevertheless, it is widely acknowledged to have a profound effect on our world’s biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere. This is illustrated by findings of, e.g., extreme temperature fluctuations, flooding, droughts and receding glaciers.

emperature change 2070-2099 vs. 1960-1989 in the Alpine Region as simulated by the mesoscale model MM5 for the SRES Scenario B2 © Richard Knoche, KIT/IMK-IFU

Temperature change 2070-2099 vs. 1960-1989 in the Alpine Region as simulated by the mesoscale model MM5 for the SRES Scenario B2 © Richard Knoche, KIT/IMK-IFU

Mountain regions as climate-limited environments are known to be especially sensitive to Climate Change, i.e. to temperature and precipitation. For example, the higher elevations of the Northern Rocky Mountains (North America) have experienced three times the global average temperature increase over the past century (Lina Barrera, Portraits of Climate Change: The Rocky Mountains). Such changes might affect extension of glaciers, snow melting time and distribution of runoff, availability of freshwater for natural systems and human uses, such as agriculture and food production. Changes in stream flow and higher water temperatures also could affect insects and other invertebrates that live in streams and rivers, with repercussions up the food chain. Possible consequences are changes in diversity and habitat range of high-elevation plant and animal species and shifting species communities.

Receding Exit Glacier, Alaska

Receding Exit Glacier, Alaska.

Although research gained much success within the last years in understanding of mountains climate, it is still limited due to the complex geographical structure of mountain regions. The research scope of the MICMoR Research School is to understand the mechanisms and interactions of Climate Change in mountain regions by following an integrative approach through research at the interfaces of atmosphere- biosphere- pedo-/hydrosphere processes. 

While the scope of Climate Change research in the past tended to be strongly specialised, focusing on a single Earth-System compartment (e.g. atmosphere, biosphere or pedo-/hydrosphere), it is now well recognised that essential exchanges and interactions occur across interfaces and involve physical, chemical and biological processes over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. An integrative approach of multi-disciplinary research collaboration is required to improve knowledge in this field of research and to bridge existing gaps in understanding of environmental processes across scales and compartment boundaries.