Elevation Dependent Warming
in brief

Assessing if, where, to what extent, and why mountains and other high elevation regions of the world are warming more rapidly than lowlands.

During the last century, global surface air temperature increased by 0.75°C according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (AR4). Between 1975 and 2010, land temperatures increased at a rate of 0.30°C/decade – more than double the rate (0.12°C/decade) of ocean warming. It has been proposed that mountainous regions may be more sensitive to global scale climate change than other land surfaces at the same latitude (e.g., Messerli and Ives 1997; Beniston et al. 1997). Several studies have suggested that mountain regions have warmed at a greater rate than their low elevation counterparts, often with greater increases in daily minimum temperatures than daily maximum temperatures (e.g. Diaz and Bradley 1997; Beniston et al. 1997; Rangwala et al. 2009; Liu et al. 2009; Qin et al. 2009; Pederson et al. 2010). Most climate models find enhanced warming in mountains and do so more consistently than found in observations (Pepin and Lundquist 2008). A conclusive understanding of these responses will continue to elude us in the absence of a more comprehensive network of climate monitoring in mountains.

This campaign aims to both review existing science and collect new data, as the current paucity of high-elevation station data precludes definitive answers.

  • Assess the significance of mountain elevation dependent warming.
  • Specify the mechanisms that underlie elevation dependent warming.
  • Review the evidence for elevation dependent warming.
  • Assess projections of future elevation dependent warming, and its implications for water, ecosystems, and society.
  • Develop satellite-based monitoring of temperatures in mountain regions.
  • Examine high-resolution regional and global modeling.
  • Design targeted observational campaigns.



Mountain Research Initiative Elevation Dependent Warming Working Group (2015) 'Elevation-dependent warming in mountain regions of the world' in Nature Climate Change 5, 424430.

Press coverage: 'High mountains warming faster than expected' on phys.org


  • 15 December 2015, San Francisco, USA
    Session at AGU "High Elevation Climate Change: Detection, Projection and Impacts"

  • October 2015, Perth, UK
    High-Elevation Climate - Research Presentation Session and Roundtable

  • 14 April 2015, Vienna, Austria
    Splinter Meeting at EGU "Elevation-dependent warming: What's Next?" 

  • 15-19 December 2014, San Francisco, USA
    Sessions and Side-events at the AGU Fall meeting

  • 17 September 2014, Midway Utah, USA
    Panel discussion at Mountain Climate Research Conference MtClim2014

  • 22-25 April 2014, Payerbach, Austria
    Expert meeting on EDW

  • 3 December 2012 and again 10 December 2013, San Francisco, USA
    Exploratory meetings at the AGU Fall meeting