In Full Transition: Key Impacts of Vanishing Mountain Ice on Water-Security at Local to Global Scales
New Publication
article written by MRI
26.11.20 | 06:11

A new paper exploring the impacts of vanishing mountain ice on water security projects significant long-term effects over decades, centuries, and even millennia, making serious impacts inevitable now and irreversible for generations to come.

The paper – co-authored by former MRI Co-PI, Professor Wilfred Haeberli, and Professor Rolf Weingartner, previously MRI Chair until his retirement in 2019 – also stresses that sustainable adaptation to the impacts of vanishing mountain ice requires comprehensive systems analyses, including dynamic socio-economic aspects.

Paper Highlights

  • Glaciers and permafrost of cold mountains are strongly affected by global warming.
  • Key impacts concern new lakes, changing water supply and global sea-level.
  • Future perspectives can be anticipated and show the need for adaptation planning.


Icy mountains with their surface ice in glaciers and subsurface ice in permafrost constitute important water towers relating to multiple human needs for water security. Vanishing of their ice as a consequence of global warming affects this function in a predominantly negative way. Key impacts are (1) the formation of new lakes with new options for use but also changing risk conditions related to decreasing stability of surrounding frozen peaks at local scales of source regions, (2) shifts in seasonality and higher inter-annual variability of runoff which may affect water supply at regional to continental scales including the surrounding lowlands, and (3) rising sea level at global scale. Long-term effects over decades, centuries and even millennia are involved, making serious impacts inevitable already now and irreversible for generations to come. Sustainable adaptation requires comprehensive systems analyses including dynamic socio-economic aspects.

Read more: Haeberli, W. and Weingartner, R. ‘In full transition: Key impacts of vanishing mountain ice on water-security at local to global scales.’  Water Security (2020):

Cover image captured by Mario Hagen.