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Published By

Dr. Dick van der Wateren



Hydrology, Glaciers, Glaciology, Water resources, Population

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Contribution potential of glaciers to water availability in different climate regimes

26.11.2010, Age: 3954 days

As a result of global warming glaciers are shrinking. In an article in PNAS an Austrian team of glaciologists present a global survey of the effect of glacier retreat on water supply in populated areas.


Although reliable figures are often missing, considerable detrimental changes due to shrinking glaciers are universally expected for water availability in river systems under the influence of ongoing global climate change. We estimate the contribution potential of seasonally delayed glacier melt water to total water availability in large river systems. We find that the seasonally delayed glacier contribution is largest where rivers enter seasonally arid regions and negligible in the lowlands of river basins governed by monsoon climates. By comparing monthly glacier melt contributions with population densities in different altitude bands within each river basin, we demonstrate that strong human dependence on glacier melt is not collocated with highest population densities in most basins.

Georg Kaser, Martin Großhauser, and Ben Marzeion. Contribution potential of glaciers to water availability in different climate regimes. PNAS November 23, 2010 vol. 107 no. 47, 20223-20227. Free via Open Access.

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