Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers

2011 Edition
| Editors: Vijay P. Singh, Pratap Singh, Umesh K. Haritashya


  • Martin BenistonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-90-481-2642-2_16

Definition and introduction: the Alps and alpine climates

Although mountains differ considerably from one region to another, one common feature is the complexity of their topography, which results in some of the sharpest gradients found in continental areas. Related characteristics include rapid and systematic changes in climatic parameters, in particular temperature and precipitation, over very short distances (Beniston, 2003); greatly enhanced direct runoff and erosion; systematic variation of other climatic (e.g., radiation) and environmental factors (e.g., differences in soil types). Mountains in many parts of the world are susceptible to the impacts of a rapidly changing climate, and provide interesting locations for the early detection and study of the signals of climatic change and its impacts on hydrological, ecological, and societal systems. All these features have a bearing on the location, behavior, and evolution of alpine cryospheric systems.

The Alps cover just over...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Barry, R. G., 2008. Mountain Weather and Climate, 3rd ed, Cambridge University Press, 506pp.Google Scholar
  2. Beniston, M., 2003. Climatic change in mountain regions: a review of possible impacts. Climatic Change, 59, 5–31.Google Scholar
  3. Beniston, M., 2004. Climatic Change and Impacts; A Review Focusing on Switzerland. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic (now Springer), p. 296.Google Scholar
  4. Beniston, M., Keller, F., and Goyette, S., 2003. Snow pack in the Swiss Alps under changing climatic conditions: an empirical approach for climate impacts studies. Theoretical and Applied Climatology, 74, 19–31.Google Scholar
  5. Christensen, J. H., Carter, T. R., and Giorgi, F., 2002. PRUDENCE employs new methods to assess European climate change. EOS. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 83, 147.Google Scholar
  6. Frei, C., Schär, C., Lüthi, D., and Davies, H. C., 1998. Heavy precipitation processes in a warmer climate. Geophysical Research Letters, 25, 1431–1434.Google Scholar
  7. Haeberli, W., 1990. Glacier and permafrost signals of 20th century warming. Annals of Glaciology, 14, 99–101.Google Scholar
  8. Haeberli, W., and Beniston, M., 1998. Climate change and its impacts on glaciers and permafrost in the Alps. Ambio, 27, 258–265.Google Scholar
  9. Harris, C., Haeberli, W., Vonder Mühll, D., and King, L., 2001. Permafrost monitoring in the high mountains of Europe: the PACE project in its global context. Permafrost and Periglacial Processes, 12, 3–11.Google Scholar
  10. IPCC, 2007. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Solomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K. B., Tignor M., and Miller H. L., (eds.), Cambridge University Press, 996pp.Google Scholar
  11. Keller, F., and Körner, C., 2003. The role of photoperiodism in alpine plant development. Arctic, Antarctic and Alpine Research, 35, 361–368.Google Scholar
  12. Körner, C., 1999. Alpine Plant Life. Heidelberg: Springer, p. 338.Google Scholar
  13. Mountain Agenda. 1998. Mountains of the World. Water Towers for the 21st Century, prepared for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. Institute of Geography, University of Berne (Centre for Development and Environment and Group for Hydrology) and Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. Bern: Paul Haupt, 32pp.Google Scholar
  14. Nakicenovic, N., et al., 2000. IPCC Special Report on Emission Scenarios. Cambridge/New York: Cambridge University Press, p. 599.Google Scholar
  15. OECD, 2006. The Impacts of Climatic Change on the European Alps. Paris: OECD, p. 129.Google Scholar
  16. Paul, F., Kääb, A., and Haeberli, W., 2007. Recent glacier changes in the Alps observed by satellite: consequences for future monitoring strategies. Global and Planetary Change, 56, 111–122.Google Scholar
  17. Salzmann, N., Frei, C., Vidale, P.-L., and Hoelzle, M., 2007. The application of Regional Climate Model output for the simulation of high-mountain permafrost scenarios. Global and Planetary Change, 56, 188–202.Google Scholar
  18. Schär, C., Vidale, P. L., Lüthi, D., Frei, C., Häberli, C., Liniger, M., and Appenzeller, C., 2004. The role of increasing temperature variability in European summer heat waves. Nature, 427, 332–336.Google Scholar
  19. Stewart, I., Cayan, D. R., and Dettinger, M. D., 2004. Changes in snowmelt runoff timing in western North America under a “Business as Usual” climate change scenario. Climatic Change, 62, 217–232.Google Scholar
  20. Zemp, M., Hoelzle, M., and Haeberli, W., 2007. Distributed modelling of the regional climatic equilibrium line altitude of glaciers in the European Alps. Global and Planetary Change, 56, 83–100.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Institute for Environmental DynamicsUniversity of GenevaCarougeSwitzerland