Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers analyze melting glaciers and water resources in Central Asia

30.07.2012
After the fall of the Soviet Union twenty years ago, water distribution in Central Asia became a source of conflict.
In areas where summer precipitation is low, glaciers play an important role when considering the quantity of available water. The Tien Shan region is a prime example; mountain glaciers in this region contribute significantly to the fresh water supply in the arid zones of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Northwestern China. Like Switzerland, Kyrgyzstan serves as a water tower for its neighboring countries.

While the impact of climate change on glaciation and water flow in the Tien Shan Mountains has already been the subject of studies, a consistent and local perspective of collected data has never before been presented. The results of this research, led by the l'UNIGE, show that the retreat of glaciers is more pronounced in peripheral areas, where summers are dry and melting ice and snow are key sources of water.

Glaciers are losing their surface every year
The glaciers in the Tien Shan Mountains cover a surface of over 15,000 square kilometers, equivalent to one third of the surface area of Switzerland. In recent decades, these glaciers have lost between 0.1% and 0.8% of their surface per year; a decrease comparable to that of alpine glaciers. The largest retreat was observed on the periphery of the Tien Shan Mountains, near the major cities of Almaty, Bishkek, Tashkent and Ürümqi. "In the summer, glaciers are the only source of fresh water for irrigation and household consumption in these regions," said Annina Sorg, first author of the study and researcher at the ISE (UNIGE) and at the Institute of Geology of Bern University.

"The intensification of glacial melting strongly affects the quantity and seasonal distribution of water. Initially, the retreat of glaciers is going to increase the available water resources, but if precipitation doesn't compensate for the losses related to glacial retreat, the reduction of glacier volume will eventually reduce the amount of available water."

The researchers proceeded to analyze a series of measurements based on many parameters related to climate, glaciers, and streamflow in order to compare this data with existing information. Although these studies have revealed a clear tendency toward a reduction in streamflow during the summer, the impact of melting glaciers on the annual flow remains unclear. "Many factors can have an influence on water quantity," explains Annina Sorg. "Precipitation level, evaporation, and even human interference on the hydrological cycle are all factors to consider."

Long-term projections
The scenarios envisioned by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict a 4% to 8% increase in winter precipitation in Central Asia by 2050. Summer precipitation, however, will decrease by 4% to 7%, which will exacerbate the drought during the summer. Especially since, according to estimates, temperatures could rise by almost 4°C in the next forty years.

According to projections, the Tien Shan Mountain glaciers will continue to lose their surface and volume in the coming decades.

In summary, certain Central Asian streams would move from a glacio-nival hydrological regime to a pluvio-nival regime, which would increas uncertainty regarding interannual variations in water levels, since they would be largely dependent on precipitation. Economic and political tensions in this area of the world would be added to the potentially disastrous environmental consequences.

The ACQWA project

ACQWA (Assessing Climate Impacts on the Quantity and quality of WAter, 2008-2013) is a European project which aims to quantify the influence of climatic change on river discharge and to analyse the impact on society and economy in mountainous regions such as the Alps, the Andes and the Tien Shan mountains. Coordinated by professor Martin Beniston and his team at the UNIGE, ACQWA gathers 35 research teams in Europe, Central Asia and South America and benefits from a 11 million swiss francs budget.

Annina Sorg | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.unige.ch
http://www.acqwa.ch

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht Colorado River's connection with the ocean was a punctuated affair
16.11.2017 | University of Oregon

nachricht Researchers create largest, longest multiphysics earthquake simulation to date
14.11.2017 | Gauss Centre for Supercomputing

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: A “cosmic snake” reveals the structure of remote galaxies

The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.

Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...

Im Focus: Visual intelligence is not the same as IQ

Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.

That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...

Im Focus: Novel Nano-CT device creates high-resolution 3D-X-rays of tiny velvet worm legs

Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.

During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....

Im Focus: Researchers Develop Data Bus for Quantum Computer

The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.

Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...

Im Focus: Wrinkles give heat a jolt in pillared graphene

Rice University researchers test 3-D carbon nanostructures' thermal transport abilities

Pillared graphene would transfer heat better if the theoretical material had a few asymmetric junctions that caused wrinkles, according to Rice University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Ecology Across Borders: International conference brings together 1,500 ecologists

15.11.2017 | Event News

Road into laboratory: Users discuss biaxial fatigue-testing for car and truck wheel

15.11.2017 | Event News

#Berlin5GWeek: The right network for Industry 4.0

30.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA detects solar flare pulses at Sun and Earth

17.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

NIST scientists discover how to switch liver cancer cell growth from 2-D to 3-D structures

17.11.2017 | Health and Medicine

The importance of biodiversity in forests could increase due to climate change

17.11.2017 | Studies and Analyses

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>