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In the press
WMO receives a number of books during the year pertaining to meteorology, hydrology, climatology, water resources, the environment and related fields for review in the WMO Bulletin and MeteoWorld.
If you are interested in becoming a reviewer, please send a message to the editor, giving your full name, e-mail and postal addresses and indicating the title(s) and/or area(s) of interest.
Climate and Hydrology of Mountain AreasC. de Jong, D. Collins and R. Ranzi (Eds.)
John Wiley, Chichester, 2005
xxi + 315 pp.
In the European Alps, the mountain habitat is moving—and not only from an aesthetical point of view. The damage done by the floods of August 2005 is still being repaired; unexpected rockfall has become an almost daily news item; climbing routes are exposed more than ever to rock and ice avalanches. In summer, artificial covers protect the glaciers and recent subsidence of high-level buildings appears to be caused by the disappearance of permafrost. In some places, it even looks as if the 2005 floods have changed the mountain morphology with distinct repercussions for the behaviour of the hydrological system. The mean rise of temperature in the Alps during the last 2.5 years was more than three-fold the global average. While the Alps are not representative of other mountainous areas, it is clear that here, at least, things are changing.
Mountain areas have largely been remote areas—remote also from scientific pursuit. One result of both the high spatial variability and the low density of measurement instruments in mountain areas is that the hydrology of these areas is not always completely understood. Even in as highly developed a country as Switzerland, the water balance is not closed. The areas of high precipitation uncertainty are also the areas of high precipitation. At the same time, the crystalline form of water is of great importance for the special mountain climate.
Climate and Hydrology in Mountain Areas is the product of a group of people that met during an annual General Assembly of the European Geophysical Union (EGU). The group found that written accounts of mountain hydrology and climatology are scarce and so decided to assemble the information presented in a book. From this perspective, the book gives an interesting overview of state-of-the-art research. It does not, however, give a complete overview of what is mountain hydrology and climatology, since it is based on presentations to the EGU meeting. On the one hand, this lack compromises the implicit promises made by the title of the book; on the other hand, the book gives an interesting selection of subjects and work that is currently being undertaken.
The book contains a short review of climate change in alpine areas and the response of the cryosphere. A similarly short review of discharge and floods in the Alps follows further on. Except for these two short overviews, all other contributions to the book are reports of rather specific case- studies. Although subjects such as land use and chemical issues are hardly covered, the reader will obtain a decent overview of themes that are currently under research at high levels. The use and limitations of regular methods in mountain areas are covered en passant. What perhaps are missing, next to scientific issues not covered by the book, are some words about the societal relevance of the presented research, even more so that the whole idea for the book started in the United Nations International Year of Mountains (2002).
Rather more focus on geo-morpho-logical aspects would have been in order—it is the geomorphology that sets mountains apart from other areas in the first place. In some cases, the scope and aim of a research project are not entirely clear, e.g. when recommending the use of hydrological response units, one could have referred to IAHS Publication 254 Regionalization in Hydrology (1997) to see that not all findings are entirely new. Another paper concludes that, after extensive modelling, the annual runoff patterns in the Austrian Alps (wet summers) were found to be different from those in the Tian Shan (dry summers) in that, in summer, the Central Asian mountain rivers are more dependent on glacier melt than the Austrian ones. One wonders why a hydrologist would need a rainfall-runoff model to come to these conclusions.
One other interesting paper describes the possibilities of making rainfall-intensity forecasts with the aid of operational precipitation radar, as input for flood forecasting models and based on a testing area in the Black Forest (Germany).
If one does not expect a complete overview of themes covered by the subject of the book title, the book will probably not be disappointing. It is neatly published and well edited, which both work remarkably well for overall readability. In the middle of the book 10 glossy pages contain figures in colour, while a usable index concludes the book. It is warmly recommended to those with a weakness for water, climate and mountain issues.
Michael R. van der Valk
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