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Glaciers in the Andes are particularly important natural archives of present and past climatic and environmental changes, in significant part because of the N-S trend of this topographic barrier and its influence on the atmospheric circulation of the southern hemisphere. Strong gradients in the seasonality and amount of precipitation exist between the equator and 30° S. Large differences in amount east and west of the Andean divide also occur, as well as a change from tropical summer precipitation (additionally modified by the seasonal shift of the circulation belts) to winter precipitation in the west wind belt (e. g. , Yuille, 1999; Garraud and Aceituno, 2001). The so-called 'dry axis' lies between the tropical and extra­ tropical precipitation regimes (Figure 1). The high mountain desert within this axis responds most sensitively to the smallest changes in effective moisture. An important hydro-meteorological feature on a seasonal to inter-annual time-scale is the occurrence of EN SO events, which strongly control the mass balance of glaciers in this area (e. g. , Wagnon et ai. , 2001; Francou et ai. , in press). The precipitation pattern is an important factor for the interpretation of climatic and environmental records extracted from ice cores, because much of this information is related to conditions at the actual time of precipitation, and this is especially so for stable isotope records. Several ice cores have recently been drilled to bedrock in this area. From Huascanin (Thompson et ai. , 1995), Sajama (Thompson et ai.

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Climate Variability and Change in High Elevation Regions: Past, Present and Future

This special issue of Climatic Change contains a series of research and review articles, arising from papers that were presented and discussed at a workshop held in Davos, Switzerland on 25–28 June 2001. The workshop was titled ‘Climate Change at High Elevation Sites: Emerging Impacts’, and was convened to reprise an earlier conference on the same subject that was held in Wengen, Switzerland in 1995 (Diaz et al., 1997). The Davos meeting had as its main goals, a discussion of the following key issues: (1) reviewing recent climatic trends in high elevation regions of the world, (2) assessing the reliability of various biological indicators as indicators of climatic change, and (3) assessing whether physical impacts of climatic change in high elevation areas are becoming evident, and to discuss a range of monitoring strategies needed to observe and to understand the nature of any changes.
Henry F. Diaz, Martin Grosjean, Lisa Graumlich

Climatic Change in Mountain Regions: A Review of Possible Impacts

This paper addresses a number of issues related to current and future climatic change and its impacts on mountain environments and economies, focusing on the ‘Mountain Regions’ Chapter 13 of Agenda 21, a basis document presented at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio de Janeiro, and the International Year of the Mountains (IYM) 2002. The awareness that mountain regions are an important component of the earth’s ecosystems, in terms of the resources and services that they provide to both mountain communities and lowland residents, has risen in the intervening decade. Based upon the themes outlined in the supporting documents for IYM, this paper will provide a succinct review of a number of sectors that warrant particular attention, according to IYM. These sectors include water resources, ecosystems and biological diversity, natural hazards, health issues, and tourism. A portfolio of research and policy options are discussed in the concluding section, as a summary of what the IYM and other concerned international networks consider to be the priority for mountain environmental protection, capacity building, and response strategies in the face of climatic change in the short to medium term future.
Martin Beniston

Variability of Freezing Levels, Melting Season Indicators, and Snow Cover for Selected High-Elevation and Continental Regions in the Last 50 Years

We have used NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis data and a Northern Hemisphere snow cover data set to analyze changes in freezing level heights and snow cover for the past three to five decades. All the major continental mountain chains exhibit upward shifts in the height of the freezing level surface. The pattern of these changes is generally consistent with changes in snow cover, both over the course of the year and spatially. We examined different free-air temperature parameters (dry bulb temperature, virtual temperature, and 700–500 hPa thickness) using the Reanalysis grid point values located over the different mountain areas as defined in this study. The different trend values were in reasonably good agreement with each other, particularly over the second half of the record. Freezing level changes in the American Cordillera are strongly modulated by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon and the freezing level heights (FLH) respond to both interannual and decadal-scale change in tropical Pacific sea surface temperature (SST). The ~0.5 °C increase in SST recorded in the tropical Pacific since the 1950s accounts for approximately half of the increase in FLH in tropical and subtropical latitudes of the Cordilleran region during that same time.
Henry F. Diaz, Jon K. Eischeid, Chris Duncan, Raymond S. Bradley

Comparison of Lower-Tropospheric Temperature Climatologies and Trends at Low and High Elevation Radiosonde Sites

Observations of rapid retreat of tropical mountain glaciers over the past two decades seem superficially at odds with observations of little or no warming of the tropical lower troposphere during this period. To better understand the nature of temperature and atmospheric freezing level variability in mountain regions, on seasonal to multidecadal time scales, this paper examines long-term surface and upper-air temperature observations from a global network of 26 pairs of radiosonde stations. Temperature data from high and low elevation stations are compared at four levels: the surface, the elevation of the mountain station surface, 1 km above the mountain station, and 2 km above the mountain station. Climatological temperature differences between mountain and low elevation sites show diurnal and seasonal structure, as well as latitudinal and elevational differences. Atmospheric freezing-level heights tend to decrease with increasing latitude, although maximum heights are found well north of the equator, over the Tibetan Plateau. Correlations of interannual anomalies of temperature between paired high and low elevation sites are relatively high at 1 or 2 km above the mountain station. But at the elevation of the station, or at the two surface elevations, correlations are lower, indicating decoupling of the boundary layer air from the free troposphere. Trends in temperature and freezing-level height are generally upward, both during 1979–2000 and during longer periods extending back to the late 1950s. However, some negative trends were found at extratropical locations. In many cases, statistically significant differences were found in trends at paired high and low elevation stations, with tropical pairs revealing more warming (and greater increases in freezing-level height) at mountain stations than at low elevations. This result is consistent with both the observed retreat of tropical glaciers and the minimal change in tropics-wide tropospheric temperatures over the past two decades. Overall, the analysis suggests that, on diurnal, seasonal, interannual, and multidecadal time scales, temperature variations at mountain locations differ significantly from those at relatively nearby (a few hundred kilometers) low elevation stations. These differences are greatest at the two surface levels, but can persist up to 2 km above the mountain site. Therefore, to determine the nature of climate variability at high elevation sites requires local observations, since large-scale patterns derived from low elevation observations may not be representative of the mountain regions. Conversely, temperature change in mountain regions should not be viewed as necessarily representative of global surface or tropospheric trends.
Dian J. Seidel, Melissa Free

20th Century Climate Change in the Tropical Andes: Observations and Model Results

Linear trend analysis of observational data combined with model diagnostics from an atmospheric general circulation model are employed to search for potential mechanisms related to the observed glacier retreat in the tropical Andes between 1950 and 1998. Observational evidence indicates that changes in precipitation amount or cloud cover over the last decades are minor in most regions and are therefore rather unlikely to have caused the observed retreat. The only exception is in southern Peru and western Bolivia where there is a general tendency toward slightly drier conditions. Near-surface temperature on the other hand has increased significantly throughout most of the tropical Andes. The temperature increase varies markedly between the eastern and western Andean slopes with a much larger temperature increase to the west. Simulations with the ECHAM-4 model, forced with observed global sea surface temperatures (SST) realistically reproduce the observed warming trend as well as the spatial trend pattern. Model results further suggest that a significant fraction of the observed warming can be traced to a concurrent rise in SST in the equatorial Pacific and that the markedly different trends in cloud cover to the east and west of the Andes contributed to the weaker warming east of the Andes in the model. The observed increase in relative humidity, derived from CRU 05 data, is also apparent in the model simulations, but on a regional scale the results between model and observations vary significantly. It is argued that changes in temperature and humidity are the primary cause for the observed glacier retreat during the 2nd half of the 20th century in the tropical Andes.
Mathias Vuille, Raymond S. Bradley, Martin Werner, Frank Keimig

The Impact that Elevation has on the ENSO Signal in Precipitation Records from the Gulf of Alaska Region

In this paper we attempt to reconcile seemingly contradictory research concerning the existence of an El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal in precipitation records from the Gulf of Alaska region. A number of studies based on records from primarily coastal stations and the mass balance of low elevation glaciers suggest there is at best a weak relationship between ENSO and precipitation anomalies in the region. In contrast, an analysis of an ice core extracted from a high elevation site on Mount Logan in the region indicates that a statistically significant ENSO signal exists in its annual snow accumulation time series on both inter-annual and inter-decadal time scales. The ENSO signal in the region is expressed through an atmospheric teleconnection known as the Pacific North America pattern. We show that a statistically significant enhancement in the atmospheric moisture transport into the North Pacific and western North America is associated with the warm phase of ENSO. The maximum transport does not occur at the surface but rather in the lower to middle troposphere. We argue that the high elevation of the Mount Logan site allows it to preferentially sample the vertically distributed moisture transport anomaly associated with warm ENSO events. This study serves to highlight the wealth of information on teleconnection patterns that may be contained in paleoclimate data from mountainous regions.
G. W. K. Moore, Keith Alverson, Gerald Holdsworth

The Health of Glaciers: Recent Changes in Glacier Regime

Glacier wastage has been pervasive during the last century; small glaciers and those in marginal environments are disappearing, large mid-latitude glaciers are shrinking slightly, and arctic glaciers are warming. Net mass balances during the last 40 years are predominately negative and both winter and summer balances (accumulation and ablation) and mass turnover are increasing, especially after 1988. Two principal components of winter balance time-series explain about 50% of the variability in the data. Glacier winter balances in north and central Europe correlate with the Arctic Oscillation, and glaciers in western North America correlate with the Southern Oscillation and Northern Hemisphere air temperature. The degree of synchronization for distant glaciers relates to changes in time of atmospheric circulation patterns as well as differing dynamic responses.
Mark F. Meier, Mark B. Dyurgerov, Gregory J. McCabe

Tropical Glacier and Ice Core Evidence of Climate Change on Annual to Millennial Time Scales

This paper examines the potential of the stable isotopic ratios, 18O/16O (δ18Oice) and 2H/1H (δDice), preserved in mid to low latitude glaciers as a tool for paleoclimate reconstruction. Ice cores are particularly valuable as they contain additional data, such as dust concentrations, aerosol chemistry, and accumulation rates, that can be combined with the isotopic information to assist with inferences about the regional climate conditions prevailing at the time of deposition. We use a collection of multi-proxy ice core histories to explore the δ18O-climate relationship over the last 25,000 years that includes both Late Glacial Stage (LGS) and Holocene climate conditions. These results suggest that on centennial to millennial time scales atmospheric temperature is the principal control on the δ18Oice of the snowfall that sustains these high mountain ice fields.
Decadally averaged δ18Oice records from three Andean and three Tibetan ice cores are composited to produce a low latitude δ18Oice history for the last millennium. Comparison of this ice core composite with the Northern Hemisphere proxy record (1000–2000 A.D.) reconstructed by Mann et al. (1999) and measured temperatures (1856–2000) reported by Jones et al. (1999) suggests the ice cores have captured the decadal scale variability in the global temperature trends. These ice cores show a 20th century isotopic enrichment that suggests a large scale warming is underway at low latitudes. The rate of this isotopically inferred warming is amplified at higher elevations over the Tibetan Plateau while amplification in the Andes is latitude dependent with enrichment (warming) increasing equatorward. In concert with this apparent warming, in situ observations reveal that tropical glaciers are currently disappearing. A brief overview of the loss of these tropical data archives over the last 30 years is presented along with evaluation of recent changes in mean δ18Oice composition. The isotopic composition of precipitation should be viewed not only as a powerful proxy indicator of climate change, but also as an additional parameter to aid our understanding of the linkages between changes in the hydrologic cycle and global climate.
Lonnie G. Thompson, Ellen Mosley-Thompson, M. E. Davis, P-N. Lin, K. Henderson, T. A. Mashiotta

Glaciers and Climate in the Andes between the Equator and 30° S: What is Recorded under Extreme Environmental Conditions?

Sublimation and melt disturb the environmental information obtained from ice core records in the Andes. In two case studies we demonstrate to what extent these post-depositional processes may remove major parts of the accumulated snow cover. Dark ash layers from the Tungurahua eruption changed the albedo of surface snow on Chimborazo glacier (6268 m, 1°30′S, 78°36′W, Ecuador) between two ice core drilling campaigns and forced substantial melt. Redistribution and washout of the chemical constituents shifted the concentration profiles obtained in December 1999 as compared to an equivalent core drilled in December 2000. The stable isotope records showed that approximately the water equivalent (weq) of an annual layer had melted, and that the percolating melt water penetrated within the firn layer to a depth of at least 16.5 m without refreezing. In the second example, from a site on the dry axis between the tropical and extra-tropical precipitation belts, significant loss of accumulated snow layers occurred by sublimation. A surface experiment at Cerro Tapado glacier (5536 m, 30°08′ S, 69° 55′ W, Chile) revealed that losses of ≈42 mm weq (≈5 mm snow) per day occurred during the dry period following the 1997/98 El Niño. This loss generally included the entire surface layer enriched in stable isotopes, and thus caused minimal disturbance of the isotopic signature (and hence climatic information) of the net accumulation, yet chemical constituents again experienced considerable changes in concentration. From annual layer counting and direct dating it is obvious that the major part of the accumulated ice on both glaciers is younger than 100 years; however, isotopic and chemical variations at least in the basal ice from Cerro Tapado clearly point to climate conditions different from the recent centuries. This evidence is supported by mass balance considerations derived from a glacier-climate model. The possibility of a third type of disturbance aside from sublimation and melting — in this case a significant hiatus in the environmental chronology — also deserves consideration for other ice core records from this region. Potential disruptions or discontinuities need to be carefully evaluated given the profound changes in climatic and glaciological conditions since the Last Glacial Maximum throughout Holocene times.
U. Schotterer, M. Grosjean, W. Stichler, P. Ginot, C. Kull, H. Bonnaveira, B. Francou, H. W. Gäggeler, R. Gallaire, G. Hoffmann, B. Pouyaud, E. Ramirez, M. Schwikowski, J. D. Taupin

Large-Scale Temperature Changes Across the Southern Andes: 20th-Century Variations in the Context of the Past 400 Years

Long-term trends of temperature variations across the southern Andes (37–55° S) are examined using a combination of instrumental and tree-ring records. A critical appraisal of surface air temperature from station records is presented for southern South America during the 20th century. For the interval 1930–1990, three major patterns in temperature trends are identified. Stations along the Pacific coast between 37 and 43° S are characterized by negative trends in mean annual temperature with a marked cooling period from 1950 to the mid-1970s. A clear warming trend is observed in the southern stations (south of 46° S), which intensifies at higher latitudes. No temperature trends are detected for the stations on the Atlantic coast north of 45° S. In contrast to higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere where annual changes in temperature are dominated by winter trends, both positive and negative trends in southern South America are due to mostly changes in summer (December to February) temperatures. Changes in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) around 1976 are felt in summer temperatures at most stations in the Pacific domain, starting a period with increased temperature across the southern Andes and at higher latitudes. Tree-ring records from upper-treeline were used to reconstruct past temperature fluctuations for the two dominant patterns over the southern Andes. These reconstructions extend back to 1640 and are based on composite tree-ring chronologies that were processed to retain as much low-frequency variance as possible. The resulting reconstructions for the northern and southern sectors of the southern Andes explain 55% and 45% of the temperature variance over the interval 1930–1989, respectively. Cross-spectral analysis of actual and reconstructed temperatures over the common interval 1930–1989, indicates that most of the explained variance is at periods >10 years in length. At periods >15 years, the squared coherency between actual and reconstructed temperatures ranges between 0.6 and 0.95 for both reconstructions. Consequently, these reconstructions are especially useful for studying multi- decennial temperature variations in the South American sector of the Southern Hemisphere over the past 360 years. As a result, it is possible to show that the temperatures during the 20th century have been anomalously warm across the southern Andes. The mean annual temperatures for the northern and southern sectors during the interval 1900–1990 are 0.53 °C and 0.86 °C above the 1640–1899 means, respectively. These findings placed the current warming in a longer historical perspective, and add new support for the existence of unprecedented 20th century warming over much of the globe. The rate of temperature increase from 1850 to 1920 was the highest over the past 360 years, a common feature observed in several proxy records from higher latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere. Local temperature regimes are affected by changes in planetary circulation, with in turn are linked to global sea surface temperature (SST) anomalies. Therefore, we explored how temperature variations in the southern Andes since 1856 are related to large-scale SSTs on the South Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans. Spatial correlation patterns between the reconstructions and SSTs show that temperature variations in the northern sector of the southern Andes are strongly connected with SST anomalies in the tropical and subtropical Pacific. This spatial correlation pattern resembles the spatial signature of the PDO mode of SST variability over the South Pacific and is connected with the Pacific-South American (PSA) atmospheric pattern in the Southern Hemisphere. In contrast, temperature variations in the southern sector of the southern Andes are significantly correlated with SST anomalies over most of the South AtlantiC., and in less degree, over the subtropical Pacific. This spatial correlation field regressed against SST resembles the ‘Global Warming’ mode of SST variability, which in turn, is linked to the leading mode of circulation in the Southern Hemisphere. Certainly, part of the temperature signal present in the reconstructions can be expressed as a linear combination of four orthogonal modes of SST variability. Rotated empirical orthogonal function analysis, performed on SST across the South Pacific and South Atlantic Oceans, indicate that four discrete modes of SST variability explain a third, approximately, of total variance in temperature fluctuations across the southern Andes.
Ricardo Villalba, Antonio Lara, José A. Boninsegna, Mariano Masiokas, Silvia Delgado, Juan C. Aravena, Fidel A. Roig, Andrea Schmelter, Alexia Wolodarsky, Alberto Ripalta

Frequency-Dependent Climate Signal in Upper and Lower Forest Border Tree Rings in the Mountains of the Great Basin

We examine the relationships, over the past millennium, between tree-ring chronologies from long-lived pines at their upper and lower limits in four mountain ranges in and near to the semiarid Great Basin. We confirm LaMarche’s (1974a) finding, based on a single mountain range in this same region, and a much shorter period of comparison, that climate responses are frequency dependent. In particular, upper and lower forest border chronologies in each mountain range are strongly coherent at decadal periods and less, with particular strength in the 3–7 year band. This variability is significantly correlated with precipitation. Conversely, we find no significant correlation between the low frequency fluctuations (60 years and longer) of upper and lower forest border chronologies. There are, however, significant correlations between the low-frequency components of the upper forest border chronologies in the different ranges, consistent with their containing a growing season temperature signal on decadal time scales. The four upper forest border chronologies all show an anomalous increase in growth since the late 19th century, and an apparent change in climate control of ring growth.
Malcolm K. Hughes, Gary Funkhouser

Upper Yellowstone River Flow and Teleconnections with Pacific Basin Climate Variability during the Past Three Centuries

Climate variability, coupled with increasing demand is raising concerns about the sustain- ability of water resources in the western United States. Tree-ring reconstructions of stream flow that extend the observational record by several centuries provide critical information on the short-term variability and multi-decadal trends in water resources. In this study, precipitation sensitive Douglas- fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii) tree ring records are used to reconstruct annual flow of the Yellowstone River back to A.D. 1706. Linkages between precipitation in the Greater Yellowstone Region and climate variability in the Pacific basin were incorporated into our model by including indices Pacific Ocean interannual and decadal-scale climatic variability, namely the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the Southern Oscillation. The reconstruction indicates that 20th century streamflow is not representative of flow during the previous two centuries. With the exception of the 1930s, streamflow during the 20th century exceeded average flows during the previous 200 years. The drought of the 1930s resulted in the lowest flows during the last three centuries, however, this probably does not represent a worst-case scenario for the Yellowstone as other climate reconstructions indicate more extreme droughts prior to the 18th century.
Lisa J. Graumlich, Michael F. J. Pisaric, Lindsey A. Waggoner, Jeremy S. Littell, John C. King

Taking the Pulse of Mountains: Ecosystem Responses to Climatic Variability

An integrated program of ecosystem modeling and field studies in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest (U.S.A.) has quantified many of the ecological processes affected by climatic variability. Paleoecological and contemporary ecological data in forest ecosystems provided model parameterization and validation at broad spatial and temporal scales for tree growth, tree regeneration and treeline movement. For subalpine tree species, winter precipitation has a strong negative correlation with growth; this relationship is stronger at higher elevations and west-side sites (which have more precipitation). Temperature affects tree growth at some locations with respect to length of growing season (spring) and severity of drought at drier sites (summer). Furthermore, variable but predictable climate-growth relationships across elevation gradients suggest that tree species respond differently to climate at different locations, making a uniform response of these species to future climatic change unlikely. Multi-decadal variability in climate also affects ecosystem processes. Mountain hemlock growth at high-elevation sites is negatively correlated with winter snow depth and positively correlated with the winter Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) index. At low elevations, the reverse is true. Glacier mass balance and fire severity are also linked to PDO. Rapid establishment of trees in subalpine ecosystems during this century is increasing forest cover and reducing meadow cover at many subalpine locations in the western U.S.A. and precipitation (snow depth) is a critical variable regulating conifer expansion. Lastly, modeling potential future ecosystem conditions suggests that increased climatic variability will result in increasing forest fire size and frequency, and reduced net primary productivity in drier, east-side forest ecosystems. As additional empirical data and modeling output become available, we will improve our ability to predict the effects of climatic change across a broad range of climates and mountain ecosystems in the northwestern U.S.A.
Daniel B. Fagre, David L. Peterson, Amy E. Hessl


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