Often called the “water towers” of our planet, owing to their role in providing water to the surrounding lowland areas, mountain regions are heavily impacted by climate change. Among the changes in the hydrological cycle components are glacier retreat, decrease of snowpack duration and thickness, changes in precipitation regimes, changes in aquifers, slope stability.

Measuring and modelling the hydrological cycle in mountain areas is challenging. Measurements are difficult owing to the remoteness and harsh environmental conditions of most mountain regions and to the fact that a large fraction of precipitation falls as snow. Modelling of precipitation is also quite demanding, owing to the steep orography and complex atmospheric circulations which put severe constraints on regional and mesoscale numerical models.

This research task will give attention to all aspects of the hydrological cycle in the mountains, from precipitation to runoff, from snow cover changes to glacier and permafrost dynamics, to elevation-dependent warming. It will focus on specific mountain areas of the world such as the Alpine and Apennine regions in Europe and the Himalayas-Tibetan Plateau area, currently subject to intense investigation by several European research groups.

The methods used in this task will involve both data analysis and modelling. The data analysis activities will be conducted in collaboration with national and international programmes such as GEO/GEOSS and in particular its GEO-GNOME Initiative (The Global Network for observation and information in the mountain environments).

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