Steinbauer, M; Zeidler, J: Climate Change in the Northern Areas Pakistan - Impacts on glaciers, ecology and livelyhoods, , Gilgit Conservation and Information Center, World Wide Fund for Nature-Pakistan (2008) [Link]


Climate change is taking place in Northern Areas. For the valley stations like Gilgit, Bunji, Skardu and Gupis an increase in mean temperature was observed for the period 1980 to 2006. The maximum increase of 0.44°C per decade was found in the winter month. Summer temperature however is declining at a rate of 0.26°C per decade. Except of Gupis, no significant (p < 0.05) precipitation trends could be observed over the same period. Gupis had a dramatic increase in precipitation of 157mm per decade. This is a fourfold increase of mean precipitation between 1980 and 2006. Meteorological data for high altitude elevations are unfortunately neither available to the scientific community nor published, even if they exist from two independent sources.The general change of glacier extend is different in the Karakoram compared to observa- tions for the majority of glaciers on the globe. While, in the rest of the world, glaciers are retreating dramatically (Lemke et al. 2007), a large number of glaciers in the Karakoram central ridge are stable or even increasing (Hewitt 2005 and 2007). Remote sensing data evaluated by Haritashya et al. (2007) indicate an advancing or similar terminus position for 45% of the studied glaciers. These glaciers mostly originate above 7000m and have elevation ranges of more than 4500m. They differ in size, elevation and latitude from glaciers that are used to demonstrate contemporary global change in glaciers (WGMS 2008 and Hewitt 2005). The small to medium sized Karakoram glaciers more often than not show retreating tendencies similar to the global pattern. Smiraglia et al. (2007) suggests, that especially debris covered glaciers in the Karakoram could be responsible for the different behavior.
The Karakoram Mountains have been shown to be the region with the most surge type glaciers in the world (Hewitt 2005). Surges are events of very fast glacier increase and subsequent decrease. They bear potential danger, as valley blocking could dam rivers and subsequently cause glacier outburst floods. Hewitt (2007) does not believe that changes in mass balance induced by climate changes alone could initiate surges in glaciers beeing inactive for decades. He suggests that a critical threshold had been crossed.
A questioning conducted in rural villages indicates that current temperature increase has an overall positive effect on agriculture. However future impacts can only be suspected and assessing the combined effect of social and climate changes is a major task for the future. Downscaling Global Climate Models projections done by the Global Change Impact Studies Centre in Islamabad proclaim an increase in mean temperature of roughly 4°C for the period from 1990 to 2080 for the widely used A1B scenario. For comparison the annual mean temperature in Gilgit, Islamabad and Lahore is 16°C, 21°C and 24°C, respectively. So the prediction will have a sever impact on livelihood. The largest uncertainties where identified in assessing the reaction of ecosystems to climate change. Besides climate change, ecosystems in Northern Areas are under threat by timber extraction, overgrazing, construction works and other land use changes. With ecosystems being the basis for economic and cultural practises in Northern Areas Pak- istan more effort has to be spent on assessing potential dangers related to the reaction of ecosystems on social and climatic changes.

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last modified 2016-02-18