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25 Apr 2023 | Press releases

Worst April heatwave in Asian history: Scientists urge action to avert catastrophic impacts across HKH

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With Bangladesh, China, India, Myanmar and Pakistan all hit by crippling heat as temperature records were broken across Asia this month, scientists at ICIMOD are urging global governments and businesses to make faster emissions reductions and development agencies to invest greater climate finance in efforts to accelerate adaptation for the region.

Temperatures on Monday (17 April) reached 41 degrees centigrade in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 45 degrees in Prayagraj, in India, and 44 in Kalewa, Myanmar. In China, Changsha and Fuzhou set the earliest local records for the commencement of summer, and several cities in Zhejiang Province broke their record for the highest daily temperature in April. On April 23 nine cities in Pakistan recorded temperatures of 40 and above.

The heat has resulted in deaths, schools closing and people being unable to work – compounding existing vulnerabilities, especially poverty and hunger, across the region.

“Human-induced climate change is the major cause of the growing number and ferocity of heat-waves we’re seeing across Asia. These signal to the fact that the climate emergency is here for this region,” says Deepshikha Sharma, a Climate and Environment Specialist at ICIMOD.

Abid Hussain, Senior Economist & Food Systems Specialist at ICIMOD says: “All climate models show that these spikes in heat are going to increase in frequency and intensity across South Asia. Such heat-waves will impact 2 billion people either directly, in terms of heat impacts on health and work, or indirectly in terms of glacier melt, floods, water variability, erratic rainfall and landslides.”

The heatwaves come as the United Nations State of the World Climate report shows Antarctic sea ice falling to its lowest extent on record and the melting of glaciers in the European Alps as “literally off the charts.”

The Hindu Kush Himalaya, which holds the third largest body of frozen water in the world, is warming at double the global average. Higher temperatures mean that glaciers melt faster and the resulting water flowing into rivers is less predictable. As temperatures continue to rise and glaciers get smaller, this leads to water scarcity and food insecurity in the region as well as increasing the likelihood of hazards such as flash floods. “Because of inadequate institutional and community capacity, most of these hazards are likely to turn into disasters,” says Hussain.

“In the most optimistic scenario, limiting global warming to 1.5 C, the region stands to lose one third of its glaciers by 2100 – creating huge risk to mountain communities, ecosystems and nature and the quarter of humanity downstream,” says Sharma. The rate of ice mass loss in the Hindu Kush Himalayas has consistently accelerated over the past six decades and glaciers even above 6,000 metres above sea level are thinning.

“Changes are now happening far faster than we feared and 1.5 degrees of warning is simply too hot,” says Sharma. “It is urgent that we make rapid and drastic progress in emissions reductions and scale adaptation finance, and for a much greater impact in adaptation and disaster risk reduction measures to protect the people and ecosystems, whose vulnerabilities are increasing by the day through no fault of their own.”

ICIMOD works with NASA, USAID and partners to monitor and predict regional droughts and extreme weather events through its SERVIR-HKH initiative. It shares this Regional Drought Monitoring and Outlook data with public bodies in our eight regional member countries.

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Millets are one of the Future Smart Foods (FSFs), indigenous to Nepal. Millets are rich in micronutrients, more resilient to water and heat stresses and can be cultivated in marginal lands and at different altitudes ranging from plain terai to high hills. They can contribute to the overall sustainability of food systems through their potential contribution to nutrition security, rural income, and resilience to climate change. Beyond their immediate agricultural significance, millets offer potential in advancing agro-/eco-tourism and culinary science. This research paper, rooted in rigorous peer review and a SWOT analysis of the current millet landscape, develops an operational framework. This framework, exemplified through the case of millets, outlines a sustainable, long-term approach for the revival of traditional crops, thereby ensuring the sustainability of food systems in Nepal. In addition to this, the paper provides recommendations that span multiple fronts, including behavioral, technological, market, and policy aspects, to facilitate the revival of millets within the food system. By adopting a holistic approach that considers behavioral changes, technological innovations, market dynamics, and policy measures, we can create an enabling environment for the sustainable revitalization of millets and other FSFs. This comprehensive strategic way will not only contribute to the restoration of agrobiodiversity and dietary diversity but also enhance the resilience of Nepal's food systems in the face of climate change and other challenges.

Study on the Water and Heat Fluxes of a Very Humid Forest Ecosystem and Their Relationship with Environmental Factors in Jinyun Mountain, Chongqing

The high‐humidity mountain forest ecosystem (HHMF) of Jinyun Mountain in Chongqing is a fragile ecosystem that is sensitive to climate change and human activities. Because it is shrouded in fog year‐round, illumination in the area is seriously insufficient. However, the flux (energy, wa-ter) exchanges (FEs) in this ecosystem and their influencing factors are not clear. Using one‐year data from flux towers with a double‐layer (25 m and 35 m) eddy covariance (EC) observation sys-tem, we proved the applicability of the EC method on rough underlying surfaces, quantified the FEs of HHMFs, and found that part of the fog might also be observed by the EC method. The observation time was separated from day and night, and then the environmental control of the FEs was determined by stepwise regression analysis. Through the water balance, it was proven that the negative value of evapotranspiration (ETN), which represented the water vapor input from the atmosphere to the ecosystem, could not be ignored and provided a new idea for the possible causes of the evaporation paradox. The results showed that the annual average daily sensible heat flux (H) and latent heat flux (LE) ranged from −126.56 to 131.27 W m−2 and from −106.7 to 222.27 W m−2, respectively. The annual evapotranspiration (ET), positive evapotranspiration (ETP), and negative evapotranspi-ration (ETN) values were 389.31, 1387.76, and −998.45 mm, respectively. The energy closure rate of the EC method in the ecosystems was 84%. Fog was the ETN observed by the EC method and an important water source of the HHMF. Therefore, the study area was divided into subtropical mountain cloud forests (STMCFs). Stepwise regression analysis showed that the H and LE during the day were mainly determined by radiation (Rn) and temperature (Tair), indicating that the energy of the ecosystem was limited, and future climate warming may enhance the FEs of the ecosystem. Addi-tionally, ETN was controlled by wind speed (WS) in the whole period, and WS was mainly affected by altitude and temperature differences within the city. Therefore, fog is more likely to occur in the mountains near heat island cities in tropical and subtropical regions. This study emphasizes that fog, as an important water source, is easily ignored in most EC methods and that there will be a large amount of fog in ecosystems affected by future climate warming, which can explain the evaporation paradox. © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

Planning for climate resilience in Nepal: A training manual for local governments

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Climate change and spatio-temporal trend analysis of climate extremes in the homogeneous climatic zones of Pakistan during 1962-2019

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Environmental impacts of shifts in energy, emissions, and urban heat island during the COVID-19 lockdown across Pakistan

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Mapping the aerodynamic roughness of the Greenland Ice Sheet surface using ICESat-2: Evaluation over the K-transect

The aerodynamic roughness of heat, moisture, and momentum of a natural surface are important parameters in atmospheric models, as they co-determine the intensity of turbulent transfer between the atmosphere and the surface. Unfortunately this parameter is often poorly known, especially in remote areas where neither high-resolution elevation models nor eddy-covariance measurements are available. In this study we adapt a bulk drag partitioning model to estimate the aerodynamic roughness length (z0m) such that it can be applied to 1D (i.e. unidirectional) elevation profiles, typically measured by laser altimeters. We apply the model to a rough ice surface on the K-transect (west Greenland Ice Sheet) using UAV photogrammetry, and we evaluate the modelled roughness against in situ eddy-covariance observations. We then present a method to estimate the topography at 1 m horizontal resolution using the ICESat-2 satellite laser altimeter, and we demonstrate the high precision of the satellite elevation profiles against UAV photogrammetry. The currently available satellite profiles are used to map the aerodynamic roughness during different time periods along the K-transect, that is compared to an extensive dataset of in situ observations. We find a considerable spatio-temporal variability in z0m, ranging between 10−4 m for a smooth snow surface and 10−1 m for rough crevassed areas, which confirms the need to incorporate a variable aerodynamic roughness in atmospheric models over ice sheets

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