Review Article | Published:

Elevation-dependent warming in mountain regions of the world

Nature Climate Change volume 5, pages 424430 (2015) | Download Citation

Abstract

There is growing evidence that the rate of warming is amplified with elevation, such that high-mountain environments experience more rapid changes in temperature than environments at lower elevations. Elevation-dependent warming (EDW) can accelerate the rate of change in mountain ecosystems, cryospheric systems, hydrological regimes and biodiversity. Here we review important mechanisms that contribute towards EDW: snow albedo and surface-based feedbacks; water vapour changes and latent heat release; surface water vapour and radiative flux changes; surface heat loss and temperature change; and aerosols. All lead to enhanced warming with elevation (or at a critical elevation), and it is believed that combinations of these mechanisms may account for contrasting regional patterns of EDW. We discuss future needs to increase knowledge of mountain temperature trends and their controlling mechanisms through improved observations, satellite-based remote sensing and model simulations.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Mountain Research Initiative for funding an international workshop in Payerbach Austria in April 2014 on elevation-dependent warming at which the idea for this paper was conceived and drafted.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. Department of Geography, Buckingham Building, Lion Terrace, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth PO1 3HE, UK

    • N. Pepin
  2. Climate System Research Center, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA

    • R. S. Bradley
  3. CIRES, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA

    • H. F. Diaz
  4. ETS–University of Quebec, Montreal, Quebec H3C 1K3, Canada

    • M. Baraer
  5. Instituto Nacional de Meterología e Hidrología, Loja, Iñaquito 700 y Corea, Ecuador

    • E. B. Caceres
  6. School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK

    • N. Forsythe
    •  & H. Fowler
  7. University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland

    • G. Greenwood
  8. Water Resources Section, Global Change Impact Studies Centre (GCISC), PO BOX 3022, Islamabad, Pakistan

    • M. Z. Hashmi
  9. SKLLQG, Institute of Earth Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences and CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China

    • X. D. Liu
  10. Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, New Jersey 08901, USA

    • J. R. Miller
  11. University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Massachusetts 01003, USA

    • L. Ning
  12. ETH Zurich, 8092 Zurich, Switzerland

    • A. Ohmura
  13. Institute of Atmospheric Sciences and Climate – National Research Council (ISAC-CNR), I-10133 Torino, Italy

    • E. Palazzi
  14. CIRES/Western Water Assessment; Physical Sciences Division, NOAA ESRL, Boulder, Colorado 80305, USA

    • I. Rangwala
  15. University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria

    • W. Schöner
  16. Institute of Geography, 050010 Almaty, Kazakhstan

    • I. Severskiy
  17. University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AH, UK

    • M. Shahgedanova
  18. Shanxi University, 030006 Taiyuan, China

    • M. B. Wang
  19. University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta TG6 2R3, Canada

    • S. N. Williamson
  20. National Hydrology Research Centre, Environment Canada, S7N 3H5 Saskatoon, Canada

    • D. Q. Yang

Consortia

  1. Mountain Research Initiative EDW Working Group

Authors

    Contributions

    N.P., R.S.B., H.F., E.P., I.R., S.N.W. and J.R.M. wrote and edited substantial sections of the main text; N.P., S.N.W., E.P. and N.F. wrote substantial sections of the supplementary material; S.W. helped with referencing; X.D.L. provided Fig. 1; N.P. conceived and M.B. provided Fig. 2; and I.R. provided Table 1. Other group members provided further insight, comments and editorial suggestions.

    Competing interests

    The author declare no competing financial interests.

    Corresponding author

    Correspondence to N. Pepin.

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    DOI

    https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2563

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