Elevation-Dependent Climate Change

The MRI has been working on issues surrounding elevation-dependent climate change since 2012. It began its activities by assessing if, where, to what extent, and why, mountains and other high elevation regions of the world are warming more rapidly than lowlands. The Elevation-Dependent Climate Change (EDCC) Working Group was formerly known as the “Elevation-Dependent Warming Working Group” but has since expanded its interest and work from consideration of temperature to include additional climate processes specific to mountains and high elevation regions. Such processes include, but are not limited to, precipitation and cryospheric processes (snow cover, snow albedo, snowline), vertical aerosol distribution, and changes in ecological zonation.

Key Working Group Details

This Working Group was created in 2014 and is in its third phase. 

The EDCC Working Group works in close collaboration with the MRI Mountain Observatories Working Group and its work provides information for the objectives and tasks of the current GEO Mountains Implementation Plan (2023-2025).

Working Group Lead

Find a full list of members here.

Outputs and Achievements to Date

  • Invited Talks | 36th International Conference on Alpine Meteorology
    • Climate change in the mountains: From elevation-dependent warming to elevation-dependent climate change. Elisa Palazzi (University of Turin, Italy)
    • Trends in temperature and moisture from a 5000 metre elevational transect across Kilimanjaro: 2004-2022. Nicholas Pepin (University of Portsmouth, United Kingdom), Harold Lovell, Clare Boston.
  • Publication | A Workshop on Advances in Our Understanding of Elevation Dependent Climate Change. Napoli, A., Pepin, N., Palazzi, E., & Zardi, D. (2023). Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. doi:10.1175/BAMS-D-23-0043.1
  • Publication | Coverage Of In Situ Climatological Observations In The World’s Mountains. Thornton, J. M., Pepin, N., Shahgedanova, M., & Adler, C. (2022). Frontiers in Climate.  https://doi.org/10.3389/fclim.2022.81418
  • Publication | Climate Changes And Their Elevational Patterns In The Mountains Of The World. Pepin, N. C., Arnone, E., Gobiet, A., Haslinger, K., Kotlarski, S., Notarnicola, C., Palazzi, E., Seibert, P., Serafin, S., Schöner, W., Terzago, S., Thornton, J.M., Vuille, M. & Adler, C. (2022). Reviews of Geophysics, 60, e2020RG000730. https://doi.org/10.1029/2020RG000730
  • Publication | Toward A Definition Of Essential Mountain Climate Variables. Thornton, J.M., Palazzi, E., Pepin, N.C., Cristofanelli, P., Essery, R., Kotlarski, S., Giuliani, G., Guigoz, Y., Kulonen, A., Pritchard, D., Li, X., Fowler, H.J., Randin, C.F., Shahgedanova, M., Steinbacher, M., Zebisch, M., and Adler, C. (2021). Toward a definition of Essential Mountain Climate Variables. One Earth, 4(6). doi: 10.1016/j.oneear.2021.05.005
  • Publication | Elevation-Dependent Warming In Mountain Regions Of The World. Mountain Research Initiative EDW Working Group. N. Pepin, R. S. Bradley, H. F. Diaz, M. Baraer, E. B. Caceres, N. Forsythe, H. Fowler, G. Greenwood, M. Z. Hashmi, X. D. Liu, J. R. Miller, L. Ning, A. Ohmura, E. Palazzi, I. Rangwala, W. Schöner, I. Severskiy, M. Shahgedanova, M. B. Wang, S. N. Williamson & D. Q. Yang. ‘Elevation-dependent warming in mountain regions of the world’ in Nature Climate Change 5, 424–430 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2563
  • Associated Publication | Many members of the group contributed to the high mountain analysis and specific section on elevation-dependent warming in the IPCC SROCC High Mountains Chapter (2): Hock, R., G. Rasul, C. Adler, B. Cáceres, S. Gruber, Y. Hirabayashi, M. Jackson, A. Kääb, S. Kang, S. Kutuzov, Al. Milner, U. Molau, S. Morin, B. Orlove, and H. Steltzer, 2019: High Mountain Areas. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA, pp. 131-202. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781009157964.004.

Planned Activities and Outputs for 2022-2023

  • Some years ago, the Working Group proposed the concept of a Uniform High-Elevation Observing Platform (UHOP). This is a standard protocol for the measurement of climate variables and processes across the broad elevational gradient. With support from GEO Mountains, work to make the concept a reality can truly begin! In this context, a UHOP workshop will take place in Bern, Switzerland, between Sunday 25 and Tuesday 27 June 2023 (following the 36th International Conference on Alpine Meteorology). The focus will be on developing the initial protocol for the platform. The concept is primarily a theoretical one, which will be operationalised through the setting up of (or expansion of already established) transects across defined elevational gradients. It is expected that many UHOPs will fall within areas covered by existing Mountain Observatories (see the Mountain Observatories Working Group) but the two concepts are not the same. Mountain Observatories cover a whole range of environmental and societal variables, but UHOPs are based on climate, at least in the initial phase.
  • It is expected that the work arising from this workshop will lead to a theoretical research output, in a similar vein to the EDW Nature Climate Change Paper, which has been highly cited. Work is currently in progress on a Nature Earth and Environments Review Article to publish our findings.


A Workshop on Advances in Our Understanding of Elevation Dependent Climate Change (15-17 September 2022)

A two-day workshop, ‘From Elevation Dependent Warming to Elevation-Dependent Climate Change,‘ took place, supported by the MRI, at the University of Innsbruck following the International Mountain Conference. The workshop developed discussions on the complex theories that control all aspects of climate change at high elevations, in particular, changing elevation gradients in precipitation; snow parameters (albedo, SWE, snowmelt, snow cover, snow duration); humidity; radiation fluxes; etc. A meeting report has been published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society. Read more here.

GEO Mountains Inventory of In Situ Observational Infrastructure

In close collaboration with the MRI’s Mountain Observatories (MOs) and Elevation-Dependent Climate Change (EDCC) Working Groups, GEO Mountains developed an inventory of predominantly research-oriented in situ mountain observation infrastructure, continuing and expanding the legacy of GNOMO. Of particular focus for this group were the many transects across elevation gradients that currently exist. Read more here.

Decline in Mountain Snow and Ice May Be Faster Than Anticipated (31 January 2022)

Enhanced mountain warming coupled with reduced elevation dependency of precipitation may deplete stores of mountain snow and ice more rapidly than previously thought, new research conducted by the MRI’s Elevation-Dependent Climate Change Working Group has found. Read more here.

Toward a Definition of Essential Mountain Climate Variables (2 June 2021)

A new article published in the journal One Earth proposes a set of potential Essential Mountain Climate Variables to support the monitoring and understanding of key climate change-related mountain processes. The article builds upon a workshop organized by GEO Mountains and hosted by the MRI. Read more here.

Updates from the MRI Working Groups (24 February 2021)

Despite the challenges of 2020, and 2021 so far, the five MRI Working Groups have exciting updates to report! Read more here.

MRI Working Group News | From Elevation-Dependent Warming to Elevation-Dependent Climate Change (28 April 2020)

The MRI Working Group “Elevation-Dependent Warming” expands its scope of work to include climate processes in addition to warming, and therefore announces a name change to “Elevation-Dependent Climate Change”. Read more here.

MRI at the AGU Fall Meeting (17 December 2019)

This year, the famous AGU Fall Meeting returned to San Francisco for the AGU’s Centennial Celebrations, gathering nearly 30,000 geoscientists – among them a great number of mountain-oriented researchers. During the AGU week, the MRI organized scientific sessions and a side-event workshop that offered mountain researchers a chance to connect and engage in discussion on mountain climate research. Read more here.

GEO-GNOME Workshop on Essential Climate Variables for Mountains (30 September 2019)

The working group lead nick Pepin participated as a moderator and presented plans of the Elevation-dependent Warming Working Group at the GEO-GNOME ‘Essential Climate Variables for Observations in Mountains’. Read more here.

Making Connections at the EGU General Assembly 2019 (24 May 2019)

Last month, the MRI was present at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly 2019, held in Vienna between 8-12 April. During the week, we attended a number of events that provided opportunities to further connect and bring the mountain research community together at one of the largest, and key, meets for the geosciences research community in Europe. Read more here.  

How to Join

As community-led activities, these Working Groups are open to anyone from the MRI network to participate and contribute to the Working Group’s work plan. Early career researchers (typically up to five years after attaining a postgraduate degree), women, researchers and practitioners from developing countries and less represented mountain regions are particularly encouraged to join and participate. Please contact the Working Group leads for information on joining:

Nick Pepin, University of Portsmouth, UK | Visit Webpage

Subscribe to the Elevation-Dependent Working Group mailing list here.