No glaciers, no water?

The world’s largest rivers have their sources in glaciers – will the global population be left high and dry without the "eternal" ice? A glacial river in Vatnajökull, Iceland. Credit: Matthias Huss/ETH Zurich

The world’s largest rivers begin in glaciated mountain regions. However, climate change may cause many glaciers to disappear. Will water become scarce?

There are around 200,000 glaciers worldwide. They play a central role in the water cycle, particularly in the middle and low latitudes, by offsetting runoff fluctuations. Rivers are lifelines on which billions of people depend worldwide, either directly or indirectly. Will water become scarce in the near or distant future if glaciers become increasingly smaller or disappear completely? Will the Alps, the Himalayas, the Rocky Mountains and the Andes continue to act as water towers?

We set out to answer this question in a study of all the earth’s mountain regions and the drainage basins of their large rivers. Decisive "peak water" We used a glacier model that describes the development of glaciers worldwide and their future runoff until the end of the 21st century. First, the good news: ice-covered mountains will continue to provide enough water throughout the year in future. In an […]

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