SNEWS® Live: Mountain communities reveal earliest indications of climate change impact

Alpinist and mountain geographer Alton Byers discusses with SNEWS® Live the cultural and environmental indications of climate change through the observation of mountain communities.

This edition of SNEWS® Live is brought to you by Patagonia

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SNEWS® Live: Those of us who love the outdoors probably know better than most the ill effects of climate change. Receding glaciers and dwindling deposits of high mountain ice are constant reminders of the growing threat of global warming. But it’s the native people who inhabit the alpine regions of the world, like Nepal and Peru, who now live with the realities of rising temperatures every day.

Melting ice is forming high-altitude lakes that threaten to flood mountain villages. As plant and animals species begin to disappear, these indigenous people are slowly beginning to see how the changing climate may affect their lives.

That’s why alpinist and mountain geographer Alton Byers is keeping a watchful eye on people in high places. Studying populations in the Himalaya region of Asia, the Andes of Peru and the Appalachian range of North America, Byers aims to gauge the progression of global warming by its impact on those who experience it directly. Like the canary in the coalmine, these delicately balanced cultures can help reveal the danger signs of catastrophic circumstances yet to come.

During the 2008 annual meeting of the American Alpine Club, Byers met with SNEW® Live the day after his presentation, “Climbatology: Climbers Documenting Climate Change.” He let us know that these high mountain regions offer the best view of global warming.