It is widely proven that mountains in many parts of the world are susceptible to the impacts of rapidly climate changing. High elevation areas therefore provide interesting locations for the early detection and study of the signals of climate change and the assessment of climate related impacts on hydrogeological, ecological and societal systems at a global level.
Mountains play a strategic role for the development on a global level since significant orographic features occupy close to 25% of continental surfaces (Kapos et al., 2000) and about 26% of the world’s people resides within mountains or in the foothills of the mountains (Meybeck et al., 2001). Moreover, 40% of global population lives in the watersheds of rivers originating in the planet’s different mountain ranges.
Besides, mountains are the source of many of the world major river’s system thus providing life-sustaining water for most regions of the world and representing a key element of the hydrological cycle.
Mountains are unique ecosystems covering all latitudinal belts and encompassing within them all the earth’s climatic zones. Mountainous areas contain rich ecosystems and have exceptionally high biodiversity.
At the same time high elevation environments are among the most sensitive and fragile to climate change occurring on a global scale thus representing unique areas for the detection of climate change and the assessment of climate related impacts at a global level.
A global understanding of the physical and dynamical processes in high altitude areas is complicated particularly for the lack of observational data at the spatial and temporal resolution in these remote regions due to their extreme characteristics (low pressure and temperature, complex topography).
To contribute to the improvement of knowledge of water and energy cycle in high elevation regions and to study their role within the global climate system, the HE initiative aims at developing a coordinated enhanced observational study in significant high elevation sites of the world by integrating an environmental monitoring network operating in these areas in addition to CEOP Phase II reference sites.