SOURCE: Pacific Standard

DATE: June 19, 2017

SNIP: Mountain temperatures are increasing more quickly than the global average, at a rate closer to that of the Arctic, and climate researchers are trying to figure out why. They suspect that the accelerated mountain warming is due to an effect documented in the Arctic—loss of albedo. The peaks are losing their shiny white blanket of snow and ice that reflects the sun’s radiation back to space. Instead, darker-colored ground absorbs heat, amplifying the heat-trapping effect of greenhouse gas pollution.

[University of Portsmouth geographer Nick] Pepin’s recent study zoomed in on the Tibetan Plateau, which holds so much snow and ice that it’s sometimes called the Third Pole. Temperatures in the region have climbed steadily. Above 4,000 meters in elevation, the rate of warming has increased by an astounding 75 percent in just the past 20 years, compared to areas below 2,000 meters.

“If we’re right, the social and economic consequences could be serious, and we could see much more dramatic changes much sooner than previously thought,” Pepin says.