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Climate change and mountains of the northern hemisphere

GS Paper 1/3

 Syllabus: Geomorphology/Climate/ Conservation, Environmental Pollution and Degradation


Source: DTE

 Context: According to a new study, a rise in temperature due to climate change could cause a shift in snowfall to rainfall in mountain regions across the Northern Hemisphere.


Findings of the study:

  • The mountains across the Northern Hemisphere are likely to see 15% more rain for every 1-degree Celsius rise in temperature due to climate change.
  • For 2 degrees and 3 degrees rise, the world would see a 30 and 45% increase in rain, respectively.


Most vulnerable:

  • The Himalayas and the North American Pacific Mountain ranges, including the Cascades, Sierra Nevada, and coastal ranges from Canada to Southern California are more threatened than the Rockies or the Alps.
  • The Himalayas is one of those hotspot regions where an increased risk (due to changes in atmospheric dynamics) of rainfall extremes is witnessed.



  • A change in air temperature will shift snowfall in these regions to rainfall and could increase the risk of disasters such as floods, landslides, and soil erosion.
  • 26% of the global population living in or directly downstream of these mountainous regions is going to be directly affected by this risk.


Concerns raised in the Water, Ice, Society, and Ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HI-WISE) report:

  • The ICIMOD report found that the Hindu Kush Himalayas have seen a 65% faster loss of glacier mass.
  • Water availability in the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra is set to increase (through 2050) in the short term and decrease in the long term (~80% by 2100).
  • Climate change is severely affecting biodiversity in HKH. For example, the habitat of Himalayan ibex is likely to reduce by 33 to 64%.


Way ahead: Developing mountain-specific climate adaptation plans to protect the natural and built environments.

Insta Links:

ICIMOD Report: Water, ice, society, and Ecosystems in the Hindu Kush Himalaya