Higher temperature increase projected in highlands

Higher temperature increase projected in highlands

Temperature projections suggest that by the end of the century, the temperature may rise by approximately 3.2°C in Bhutan. Higher increases are projected especially in the highlands. The projection was highlighted during the Bhutan Climate Roundtable, held on 24-25 May, 2023, in Thimphu.

The increase in temperature is dependent on various factors, including greenhouse gas emissions and socioeconomic development. This projection is specifically associated with the scenario known as RCP 8.5, which represents a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario according to the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM). It is important to note that these projections are subject to uncertainties and can vary depending on the effectiveness of mitigation measures, socio-economic development, population growth and future emissions trends among others.

Global average temperature has increased by more than 1 °C in the last 100 years. There is an increasing temperature trend for Bhutan but it is not statistically significant for the short observation period from 1996. The trends are different for different dzongkhags (districts), some experiencing increase and some decreasing owing to micro climatic features, according to the NCHM.

As per the projection of NCHM, highland areas above 3000 meters above the sea level are likely to witness the rise in temperature.

For instance, the farmers of Laya gewog have seen common pests of the hot region, infecting their wheat and barley as well as their greenhouse-grown crops. Additionally, farmers are starting to notice how climate change is affecting their vegetables and crop yields.

Human activities, particularly the emission of greenhouse gases, play a significant role in influencing global temperature.

However, the exact magnitude and timing of temperature changes are difficult to pinpoint. This is because natural drivers, such as volcanic events, also contribute to variations in global temperatures.

Furthermore, the Earth’s climate system exhibits natural variabilities, including phenomena like El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO), and Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD). These natural variations can impact regional and global climate patterns and introduce additional uncertainties in long-term temperature projections.

Climate models and projections aim to provide insights into potential future scenarios based on different greenhouse gas emission scenarios and socioeconomic pathways. While they can offer estimates of temperature changes, they typically focus on long-term trends rather than specific timelines or individual years. Therefore, predicting the exact duration and years of temperature increase with high precision remains challenging due to the complex interplay of human activities, natural drivers, and inherent uncertainties in the Earth’s climate system.

Losing of the glaciers and risk of glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) are significant threats of rising temperature to Bhutan. Other threats are the rising extreme weather events, changing rainfall patterns, loss of biodiversity, change in vegetation, vector borne disease among others.

As commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), mitigation and adaptation is undertaken at the national level in various policies and programs implemented by different sectors across the government. For instance, building resilience to climate change was a program of the NCHM in the 12th Five Year Plan (FYP). For countries like Bhutan, adaptation to climate change is important to prepare and respond to disasters through improved forecast and early warning services.

The NCHM is an autonomous scientific and technical organization of the Royal Government responsible for understanding the behavior’s of the atmosphere, its interaction with cryosphere and water bodies, the weather and climate and distribution of the country’s water resources. It is the nodal agency responsible for generation of information and delivery of products and services on weather, climate, cryosphere and water resources in Bhutan. NCHM is working on establishing GLOF and flood early warning systems and weather and flood information and services.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu