Climate change can have severe impacts on the high-mountain cryosphere, such as instabilities in rock walls induced by thawing permafrost. Relating climate change scenarios produced from global climate models (GCMs) and regional climate models (RCMs) to complex high-mountain environments is a challenging task. The qualitative and quantitative impact of changes in climatic conditions on local to microscale ground surface temperature (GST) and the ground thermal regime is not readily apparent. This study assesses a possible range of changes in the GST (ΔGST) in complex mountain topography. To account for uncertainties associated with RCM output, a set of 12 different scenario climate time series (including 10 RCM-based and 2 incremental scenarios) was applied to the topography and energy balance (TEBAL) model to simulate average ΔGST for 36 different topographic situations. Variability of the simulated ΔGST is related primarily to the emission scenarios, the RCM, and the approach used to apply RCM results to the impact model. In terms of topography, significant influence on GST simulation was shown by aspect because it modifies the received amount of solar radiation at the surface. North faces showed higher sensitivity to the applied climate scenarios, while uncertainties are higher for south faces. On the basis of the results of this study, use of RCM-based scenarios is recommended for mountain permafrost impact studies, as opposed to incremental scenarios. Copyright 2007 by the American Geophysical Union.
Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Salzmann, N. (Nadine), Nötzli, J. (Jeannette), Hauck, C. (Christian), Gruber, S, Hoelzle, M. (Martin), & Haeberli, W. (Wilfried). (2007). Ground surface temperature scenarios in complex high-mountain topography based on regional climate model results. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 112(2). doi:10.1029/2006JF000527