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Wilfried Haeberli, Johannes Oerlemans, and Michael Zemp

Like many comparable mountain ranges at lower latitudes, the European Alps are increasingly losing their glaciers. Following roughly 10,000 years of limited climate and glacier variability, with a slight trend of increasing glacier sizes to Holocene maximum extents of the Little Ice Age, glaciers in the Alps started to generally retreat after 1850. Long-term observations with a monitoring network of unique density document this development. Strong acceleration of mass losses started to take place after 1980 as related to accelerating atmospheric temperature rise. Model calculations, using simple to high-complexity approaches and relating to individual glaciers as well as to large samples of glaciers, provide robust results concerning scenarios for the future: under the influence of greenhouse-gas forced global warming, glaciers in the Alps will largely disappear within the 21st century. Anticipating and modeling new landscapes and land-forming processes in de-glaciating areas is an emerging research field based on modeled glacier-bed topographies that are likely to become future surface topographies. Such analyses provide a knowledge basis to early planning of sustainable adaptation strategies, for example, concerning opportunities and risks related to the formation of glacial lakes in over-deepened parts of presently still ice-covered glacier beds.


Japan is one of the world’s leading marine fishing nations in globalized industrial fisheries, yet the mainstay of the national fishing industry continues to be small-scale fisheries with their own set of cultural and environmental heritage. The cultural tradition of the Japanese fishing communities still preserves the various ways of understanding local weather, which are mainly based on landscape perception and forecasting knowledge. The prediction of weather conditions for a given location and time is part of a long-established historical tradition related to the need for an “easy” understanding of the climatic and maritime environment. It encompasses a variety of practical experiences, skillful reasoning strategies, and cultural values concerning indigenous environmental knowledge, decision-making strategies, and habitual applications of knowledge in everyday life. Japanese traditional forecasting culture interfaces with modern meteorological forecasting technologies to generate a hybrid knowledge, and offers an example of the complex dialogue between global science and local science. Specifically, interpretations and meteorological observations of local weather are modes of everyday engagement with the weather that exhibit a highly nuanced ecological sophistication and continue to offer a critical discourse on the cultural, environmental, and social context of Japanese small-scale fisheries. Indigenous weather understanding is bound up with community-based cultural heritage—religious traditions, meteorological classifications, proverbs, traditional forecasting models, and selective incorporation or rejection of scientific forecasting data—that offers a general overview of the interaction between community know-how, sensory experience, skills, and cultural practices.