Potential regions to benefit from climate mapping tools

An increasing number of regions are recognizing the effects of climate change.

Some are in danger due to the increasing number of glacial lakes that have developed due to glacier retreat. The United Nations has a series of monitoring efforts to help prevent death and destruction in regions that are likely to experience these events. While all countries with glaciers are susceptible to this problem, central Asia, the Andes regions of South America and those countries in Europe that have glaciers in the Alps, have been identified as the regions at greatest risk. Island countries, like the Maldives, are concerned with rising sea levels. Other countries display various indicators of climate change through rising levels of disease, changing precipitation and increased natural disasters.

The following are examples of affected regions that may find an online tool for mapping indicators useful, or are already exploring such a tool.

The Swiss Alps

The Alps, climatologists agree, are especially sensitive to global warming. Alpine glaciers have retreated faster in the last 20 years, losing around 25% of their surface area. Now the Swiss region of the Jungfrau, which is classed as a Unesco Heritage Site, is hoping to show the world exactly what global warming looks like, in the form of a graphic interactive guide along its hiking trails.
Alpine glaciers have noticeably receded in the last 20 years. Photo courtesy BBC.

The guide has been developed by the University of Berne's Institute for Climate Change, and uses the latest in modern technology - an iPhone complete with GPS.
Taking the iPhones, which are available from local tourist offices, along any one of seven Climate Change Hiking Trails, allows hikers to compare, for example, pictures of the glaciers 100 years ago with their condition now.

Path with audio links explaining climate change indicators. Image courtesy Jungfrau Climate Guide.
Experts from the University of Bern guide you along seven paths, pointing out the first signs of change in the region. The latest results of their research are attractively presented in language anyone can understand in the Jungfrau climate guide.
They can also see interviews with climatologists explaining how glaciers normally advance and retreat, and the devices can be used to identify rare alpine flowers, many of which are now growing in areas once covered by ice.
"We wanted to show people that climate change is already happening," said Kaspar Meuli of the Climate Change Institute.
"You can see the consequences already, it's happening now and here. We want to make people feel more concerned about this whole problem."
BBC News
"Alpine climate campaign enlists iPhone"

The Maldives
Photo courtesy iujaz / Mohamed Iujaz Zuhair, under Creative Commons Licensing.

The threat posed by rising sea levels has been the centerpiece of climate change negotiations, the main issue emphasized by Small Island Developing States, also known as the SIDS.

The Maldives is an archipelago comprised of 1,192 islands, of which about 250 are inhabited by 380,000 people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that sea levels could rise by 25-58cm by 2100, and since the highest land point in the Maldives is 2.4 meters above sea level, by that time, the majority of the country would be underwater. ReliefWeb has maps of the regionwith UN and World Bank data, but they are difficult to navigate and don't show details of the crisis.

The Guardian
"Paradise Almost Lost"

Relief Web
"Maldives steps up fight to delay climate change effects"


Rapshthreng lake and Thothormi glacier, Lunana. Photo courtesy Yaklela, Creative Commons Licensing
A glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) is created when water dammed by a glacier or a moraine is released, which is generally caused by increasing global temperature. Of the 2674 glacial lakes in Bhutan, 24 have been identified by a recent study as candidates for GLOFs in the near future. In October 1994, a GLOF 90 kilometers upstream from Punakha Dzong caused massive flooding on the Pho Chhu River, damaging the dzong and causing casualties.
“Mountains were once considered indomitable, unchanging and impregnable. But we are learning that they are as vulnerable as the world’s oceans, grasslands and forests to environmental threats and insensitive, unfettered, development”, said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of UNEP. “The findings from our joint studies in the Himalayas, the roof of the world, reveals the extent of a new and alarming threat. It is not just the risk to human lives, agriculture and property that should worry us. Mountains are the world’s water towers feeding the rivers and lakes upon which all life depends. If the glaciers continue to retreat at the rates being seen in places like the Himalayas, then many rivers and freshwater systems could run dry, threatening drinking water supplies, as well as fisheries and wildlife. We now have another compelling reason to act to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.”

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency shows images and scientific indicators showing evidence of glacial retreat in the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan and Nepal.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
"Glacial Lakes in Bhutan Himalayas"
"Glacial Lake Outburst Flood"
UN Chronicle
"Global Warming Triggers Glacial Lake Flood Threat"

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