Mountains Under Global Change: the MRI at EGU 2021
MRI News
article written by MRI
06.05.21 | 10:05

The European Geophysical Union (EGU) General Assembly 2021 took place virtually April 19-30. MRI Executive Director Carolina Adler, co-PI Christian Huggel, and Scientific Project Officer Gabrielle Vance convened the session ‘Risks From a Changing Cryosphere, and Mountains Under Global Change‘ with Matthew Westoby and Michael Krautblatter. 

Representing GEO Mountains, MRI Scientific Project Officer James Thornton hosted a dedicated splinter meeting, ‘Interdisciplinary Environmental and Socio-Economic Observations in the World’s Mountains: Identifying Solutions to Key Challenges,’ and presented recent progress ‘Towards a definition of Essential Mountain Climate Variables.’ Read more about GEO Mountains at EGU 2021 here

Climate change affects the global cryosphere strongly, leading to significant changes over the past decades. Glaciers are shrinking and thinning. Snow cover and duration is reduced, and permafrost, in both Arctic and mountain environments, is thawing. Changes in sea ice cover and characteristics have attracted widespread attention, and changes in ice sheets are monitored with care and concern. Risks associated with one or several of these cryosphere components have been present throughout history. However, with ongoing climate change, the mountain research community expects changes in the magnitude and frequency of hazards, with profound implications for risks – especially when these interact with other aspects relating to context vulnerability, exposure, and other processes of biophysical and/or socioeconomic drivers of change. 


Glacial lake distribution in Switzerland and its evolution over time, from Nico Mölg’s presentation (Mölg, N., Huggel, C., Herold, T., Storck, F., Allen, S., Haeberli, W., Schaub, Y., and Odermatt, D.: Inventory and genesis of glacial lakes in Switzerland since the Little Ice Age, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-12144,, 2021). 

The MRI’s EGU session invited contributions across all cryosphere components that address risks associated with observed or projected physical processes. Contributions considering more than one cryosphere component (e.g., glaciers and permafrost) were particularly encouraged, as well as contributions on cascading processes and interconnected risks;  hazards and risks related to changes in the past, present, or future; components of risks (i.e., natural hazards, exposure, vulnerability); and diverse experiences with inter- and transdisciplinary research, that address risks with communities through adaptation and resilience building.

Graphical abstract of a paper presented by Rebekka Steffen (Steffen, R., Steffen, H., Weiss, R., Lecavalier, B., Milne, G., Woodroffe, S., and Bennike, O.: Earthquakes induced by ice-mass loss: A case example for southern Greenland, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-335,, 2021).

The vPICO session featured presenting authors from  Austria, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Italy, Peru, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States, as well as over 130 attendees. Two-minute talks preceded breakout room discussions with each presenting author.  Emergent themes in the session included the threats posed by new or growing glacier lakes; thawing permafrost and ensuing landslide or destructive rock and ice avalanches;  decreased summertime sea ice extent and increased coastal vulnerability; and sea level change associated with rapid acceleration of outlet glacier ice discharge and collapse of ice sheets.


Summary figure from Sara Savi’s presentation (Savi, S., Comiti, F., and Strecker, M.: Global warming, slope stability, and the dynamization of geological hazards in high mountain regions: a case study from the Eastern Alps., EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-2070,, 2021). 

The co-conveners would like to thank all those who contributed to the vPICO session, listed below:

The role of sea ice for plastic pollution in the Arctic 
Ilka Peeken, Elisa Bergami, Ilaria Corsi, Benedikt Hufnagl, Christian Katlein, Thomas Krumpen, Martin Löder, Qiuang Wang, and Claudia Wekerle

Increasing Mobility of High Arctic Sea Ice Increases Marine Hazards off the East Coast of Newfoundland
David Babb, David Barber, Jens Ehn, Wayne Chan, Lisa Mathes, Laura Dalman, Yanique Campbell, Madison Harasyn, Jennifer Lukovich, Tom Zagon, Tim Papakyriakou, David Capelle, and Alain Gariepy

Earthquakes induced by ice-mass loss: A case example for southern Greenland  
Rebekka Steffen, Holger Steffen, Robert Weiss, Benoit Lecavalier, Glenn Milne, Sarah Woodroffe, and Ole Bennike

The Arctic Rain on Snow Study
Andrew Barrett and Mark Serreze

Hazardous calving event on Isfallsglaciären in Northern Sweden as a result of climate warming
Per Holmlund, Nina Kirchner, and Erik Mannerfelt

The August 2020 jökulhlaup from a marginal lake at Langjökull, W-Iceland: Course of events, discharge and volume estimates, future monitoring
Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson, Kristjana G. Eythórsdóttir, Esther H. Jensen, Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir, Finnur Pálsson, Andri Gunnarsson, Hlynur Sk. Pálsson, Oddur Sigurðsson, Guðbjörg H. Karlsdóttir, Ragnar H. Þrastarson, Gunnar Sigurðsson, Tómas Jóhannesson, and Matthew J. Roberts

Intensified paraglacial slope failures due to accelerating downwasting of a temperate glacier in Mt. Gongga, Southeastern Tibet Plateau
Yan Zhong, Qiao Liu, Yong Nie, Matthew Westoby, Bo Zhang, Jialun Cai, Haijun Liao, and Guoxiang Liu

Global warming, slope stability, and the dynamization of geological hazards in high mountain regions: a case study from the Eastern Alps.
Sara Savi, Francesco Comiti, and Manfred Strecker

Towards a better understanding of the role of glacier retreat and permafrost degradation in triggering secondary lahars
Theresa Frimberger, Daniel Andrade, and Michael Krautblatter

Link between molards and permafrost degradation: an experimental study
Meven Philippe, Susan J. Conway, Marianne Font-Ertlen, Costanza Morino, and Olivier Bourgeois

Geophysical and geomatic recent surveys at Whymper hanging Glacier (Aosta Valley – Italy)
Fabrizio Troilo, Simone Gottardelli, Daniele Giordan, Niccolò Dematteis, Alberto Godio, and Christian Vincent

A global inventory of potential future glacial lakes
Louis Frey, Holger Frey, Matthias Huss, Simon Allen, Daniel Farinotti, Christian Huggel, Adam Emmer, and Dan Shugar

Inventory and genesis of glacial lakes in Switzerland since the Little Ice Age
Nico Mölg, Christian Huggel, Thilo Herold, Florian Storck, Simon Allen, Wilfried Haeberli, Yvonne Schaub, and Daniel Odermatt

A landslide-generated tsunami and outburst flood at Elliot Creek, coastal British Columbia
Marten Geertsema, Brian Menounos, Dan Shugar, Tom Millard, Brent Ward, Göran Ekstrom, John Clague, Patrick Lynett, Pierre Friele, Andrew Schaeffer, Jennifer Jackson, Bretwood Higman, Chunli Dai, Camille Brillon, Derek Heathfield, Gemma Bullard, Ian Giesbrecht, and Katie Hughes

Reconstruction of the sudden drainage of a moraine-dammed lake in the Cordillera Vilcabamba (Peru): the 2020 Salkantay event
Oscar Vilca, Martin Mergili, Adam Emmer, Holger Frey, and Christian Huggel

A new GLOF inventory for the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes
Adam Emmer, Simon Cook, Joanne L. Wood, Stephan Harrison, Ryan Wilson, Alejandro Diaz-Moreno, John M. Reynolds, and Juan Torres

Landslide-GLOF cascade at the expanding Jinwuco in Tibet, 2020: a clear consequence of anthropogenic climate change
Guoxiong Zheng, Martin Mergili, Adam Emmer, Simon Allen, Anming Bao, Hao Guo, and Markus Stoffel

Glacial lake outburst floods in High Mountain Asia: From large scale assessment to local disaster risk management
Simon Allen, Tobias Bolch, Holger Frey, Guoqing Zhang, Guoxiong Zheng, Suraj Mal, Ningsheng Chen, Ashim Sattar, and Markus Stoffel

Susceptibility of glacial lakes to avalanche and rockfall in the Hindu-Kush-Himalaya
Saket Dubey, Manish Goyal, Ashim Sattar, and Umesh Haritashya

Hydrodynamic modelling of outburst flood hazard in the Pokhara Valley, Nepal
Melanie Fischer, Oliver Korup, Georg Veh, and Ariane Walz

Modeling glacial lake outburst flood process chains in Sikkim Himalaya: Hazard assessment of two potentially dangerous lakes
Ashim Sattar, Simon Allen, Holger Frey, Christian Huggel, and Martin Mergili

How can drone imagery and dendrogeomorphology contribute to GLOF hazard assessment in remote areas? A case study from Chilean Patagonia.
Sandra Gorsic, Alberto Muñoz-Torrero Manchado, Jérôme Lopez-Saez, Simon K. Allen, Juan A. Ballesteros-Canovas, Clara Rodríguez-Morata, Alejandro Dussaillant, and Markus Stoffel

Risk management and response process of moraine lakes GLOF in southwestern Tibet (China)
Xiang Wang, Guo Chen, Xiaoai Dai, Jingjing Zhao, Xian Liu, Yu Gao, Junmin Zhang, Yongjun Chen, Xiaozhen Li, Wenyi Qin, and Peng Wang

Climate change and cryosphere in high mountains: updates from the Capanna Margherita hut study case (Punta Gnifetti, Monte Rosa Massif, Pennine Alps)  Marco Giardino, Antonio Montani, Andrea Tamburini, Francesco Calvetti, Davide Martelli, Graziano Salvalai, Federico Tognetto, and Luigi Perotti

Investigating the concept of mountain forest protection and management as a means for flood protection
Janine Rüegg, Christine Moos, Alice Gentile, Gilles Luisier, Alexandre Elsig, Günther Prasicek, and Iago Otero

Anthropogenic climate change detected in natural and human systems of the world’s mountains
Christian Huggel, Simon K. Allen, Indra D. Bhatt, Rithodi Chakraborty, Fabian Drenkhan, Robert Marchant, Samuel Morin, Laura Niggli, Ana Elizabeth Ochoa Sánchez, Julio Postigo, Estelle Razanatsoa, Valeria Rudloff, Aida Cuni Sánchez, Dáithí Stone, Jessica Thorn, and Daniel Viviroli

Mountain freshwater ecosystems and protected areas in the tropical Andes: insights and gaps for climate change adaptation
Estefania Quenta, Verónica Crespo-Pérez, Bryan Mark, Ana Lía Gonzales, and Aino Kulonen

Emerging water scarcity risks in tropical Andean glacier-fed river basins
Fabian Drenkhan, Erika Martínez, Charles Zogheib, Boris F. Ochoa-Tocachi, and Wouter Buytaert

Natural and human systems of the Andes under climate change: local detection and attribution assessment of impacts in physical, biological and human systems
Ana Ochoa-Sánchez, Fabian Drenkhan, Dáithí Stone, Daniel Mendoza, Ronald Gualán, and Christian Huggel

Adaptation to climate change induced water stress in major glacierized mountain regions
Anubha Aggarwal, Holger Frey, Graham McDowell, Fabian Drenkhan, Marcus Nuesser, Adina Racoviteanu, and Martin Hoelzle

Using systematic review to analyse climate change impacts and adaptation associated with mountain permafrost
Prashant Baral and Simon Allen

Adaptation to climate change in the mountain regions of Central Asia: Assessment of the current knowledge
Zarina Saidaliyeva, Veruska Muccione, Maria Shahgedanova, Sophie Bigler, and Carolina Adler

GuMNet – The Guadarrama Monitoring Network initiative (Spain)
Cristina Vegas, Fidel González-Rouco, and the The GuMNet Consortium Team

Understanding the impacts of climate change on high mountain practices: the case of the Mont Blanc massif through an interdisciplinary approach
Emmanuel Salim, Jacques Mourey, Ludovic Ravanel, Pierre-Alain Duvillard, Maëva Cathala, Florence Magnin, Philip Deline, Suvrat Kaushik, Grégoire Guillet, Xavi Gallach, and Marie Olhasque

Cover image by Dima Burakov