Most snow and rain in the Karakoram area of the high-mountain region of Asia falls during the winter months, whereas in nearby mountain ranges, monsoon-driven summer precipitation dominates, finds a study published online in Nature Geoscience. The Karakoram region has been noted for its anomalously stable glaciers, and the findings suggest that these unusual annual snow- and rainfall patterns may be protecting Karakoram glaciers from mass loss in a changing climate.
Sarah Kapnick and colleagues used high-resolution climate model simulations covering the period from 1861 to 2100, as well as observations, to analyse the seasonal cycle of snow- and rainfall in the Karakoram range. For comparison, they also studied two nearby regions of high-mountain Asia where glaciers are losing mass. They find that in the Karakoram most precipitation falls as snow between December and May. Moreover, in their projections for the twenty-first century, there is little change in total precipitation each year in response to climate change. In contrast, in the nearby mountain ranges, where monsoon-driven summer precipitation dominates, overall snowfall is projected to decline over the next century whereas rainfall will increase.