Impact of Climate Change on Swiss Alps

Professor Martin Beniston Professor Martin Beniston of The University of Geneva, and former vice chairman of one of the working groups in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), delivered the 5th SEE Colloquium on 10th May, 2017. He is currently leading a major European project (www.acqwa.ch) to study the potential impacts of climate change on the Alps.

During the colloquium, Professor Beniston presented the latest results on the implications of future shifts in temperature and precipitation patterns in the Alps. This directly alters the snow distributions and the seasonality of water originating from mountains and uplands.

The research is of utmost importance to the future water management in the Alps, affecting the distribution of water in both upland and populated lowland areas. Economic sectors such as the agriculture, tourism or hydropower may enter into rivalries if water is no longer available in sufficient quantities or at the right time of the year. It is thus very important to estimate as accurately as possible future changes in order to implement the most effective adaptation strategies and water governance.

Professor Beniston highlighted that the total quantity of water available in the Alps is not going to be so much affected; it is the seasonality of water throughout the year that is going to drastically change as a direct impact of climate change. Such a change will have a large impact on the hydroelectricity supply and the revenue of the hydropower utilities.