10th International Conference on Geomorphology
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Modern landscape change in High Mountain Asia (1950-present)

Dongfeng Li1, Xixi Lu1, Ting Zhang1, Desmond Walling2, Stephan Harrison3, Dan Shugar4, Michele Koppes5, Stuart Lane6, and Tobias Bolch
Dongfeng Li et al.
  • 1Department of Geography, National University of Singapore, Kent Ridge 117570, Singapore (dongfeng@u.nus.edu)
  • 2Department of Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK
  • 3College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, UK
  • 4Water, Sediment, Hazards, and Earth-surface Dynamics (waterSHED) Lab, Department of Geoscience, University of Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada
  • 5Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T1Z2, Canada
  • 6Institute of Earth Surface Dynamics, University of Lausanne, Lausanne CH-1015, Switzerland

High Mountain Asia (HMA) – the Tibetan Plateau and surrounding high Asian mountains – is now experiencing amplified climate change, glacier melt, and permafrost thaw. The rapid climate change and melting and thawing of the cryosphere are not only affecting the water cycle but also causing landscape instability and mountain hazards, potentially threatening over 2 billion people in the downstream river basins. Glacier retreat and permafrost thaw are accelerating associated with frequent rockfalls, landslides, and debris flows. Lake outburst floods from (pro)glacial- and landslide-dammed lakes have potential runout distances of hundreds of kilometers. Moreover, greater amounts of sediment are mobilized, and fluvial sediment fluxes are increasing. Such mountain landscape instability can be largely attributed to climate change and is threatening infrastructure and livelihoods. We suggest that policymakers and stakeholders in the Himalaya countries must be urgently and fundamentally aware of these increasing threats in a changing climate. Adaptation measures should be based on extensive and continual monitoring of the glaciers, permafrost, unstable paraglacial landscapes, and sediment transport, to better understand compound and cascading hazards.

How to cite: Li, D., Lu, X., Zhang, T., Walling, D., Harrison, S., Shugar, D., Koppes, M., Lane, S., and Bolch, T.: Modern landscape change in High Mountain Asia (1950-present), 10th International Conference on Geomorphology, Coimbra, Portugal, 12–16 Sep 2022, ICG2022-23, https://doi.org/10.5194/icg2022-23, 2022.