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 New Measurement Device: Carbon Dioxide As Geothermometer
21.05.2019 | Universität Heidelberg

nachricht Cause for variability in Arctic sea ice clarified
14.05.2019 | Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: The geometry of an electron determined for the first time

Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.

The spin of an electron is a promising candidate for use as the smallest information unit (qubit) of a quantum computer. Controlling and switching this spin or...

Im Focus: Self-repairing batteries

UTokyo engineers develop a way to create high-capacity long-life batteries

Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...

Im Focus: Quantum Cloud Computing with Self-Check

With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.

Many scientists are currently working on investigating how quantum advantage can be exploited on hardware already available today. Three years ago, physicists...

Im Focus: Accelerating quantum technologies with materials processing at the atomic scale

'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.

However a major challenge in developing these technologies is that the quantum phenomena are very fragile, and only a handful of physical systems have been...

Im Focus: A step towards probabilistic computing

Working group led by physicist Professor Ulrich Nowak at the University of Konstanz, in collaboration with a team of physicists from Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz, demonstrates how skyrmions can be used for the computer concepts of the future

When it comes to performing a calculation destined to arrive at an exact result, humans are hopelessly inferior to the computer. In other areas, humans are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

SEMANTiCS 2019 brings together industry leaders and data scientists in Karlsruhe

29.04.2019 | Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

Plumbene, graphene's latest cousin, realized on the 'nano water cube'

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New flatland material: Physicists obtain quasi-2D gold

23.05.2019 | Materials Sciences

New Boost for ToCoTronics

23.05.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>