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Climate Change in Kyrgyzstan: from the national to the regional dimension

Background:

Kyrgyzstan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change in Central Asia, suffering from drought, land and mudslides while flooding events and riverbank erosion are set to increase in frequency and intensity. Forests and pastures are already under stress because of anthropic pressure and are among the most sensitive resources being impacted by climate change.

This story shows how Earth Map supported the development of the “The Kyrsgyz Republic Baseline Atlas”. The baseline Atlas of Kyrgyzstan collects information, maps and statistics on national and sub-national resources. It focuses the analysis on four rayons (districts – see Figure 1) identified as target areas for a Green Climate Fund project. The proposal was approved by the Green Climate Fund as can be seen in the official website. With the support of Earth Map and some more in depth analysis, the Atlas was finished in two weeks by a team of FAO experts.

Region:

Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan

Topic:

Climate change, Land degradation

Findings:

Earth Map guided an assessment in which different parameters (land productivity, vegetation intensity, precipitation and temperature) were considered. The maps and statistics supported the Government of Kyrgyzstan to identify hazards (anomalies in precipitation and temperature patterns) and sensitivity factors (land productivity dynamics and vegetation intensity) related to climate change impacts, such as landslides or decreasing health conditions of grass which were putting people living in the area and grazing activities in danger. The assessment in Earth Map provided the information to the Government of Kyrgyzstan to identify the drivers of these impacts.

(i) As can be seen in Figure 2, 25% of the target area (Suzak) which is mainly located in the mountainous region, has a declining productivity in terms of land productivity dynamics[1];

(ii) Figure 3 shows that vegetation intensity has declined in some parts of Suzak, especially in the mountainous region. Based on the results of the analysis presented in Figure 2 and 3, the Earth Map user can already assume the presence of grassland degradation and risk of landslides in the mountainous region of Suzak. In order to support the analysis with more data, climatic variables were also assessed;

(iii) The average total annual precipitation (mm) in Kyrgyzstan has increased by 10% (from 400mm in 1981 to 440mm in 2019) in the last 40 years (Figure 4);

(iv) In order to understand regional differences, the spatial distribution of precipitation anomalies in the whole Kyrgyzstan can be assessed (Figure 5). This indicates a decrease in precipitation in the project target area (mountainous Western part of the country);

(v) The same precipitation analysis done at the national level applied to the regional level shows that in the last 40 years the average total annual precipitation (mm) has decreased around 40% (from 537mm in 1981 to 331mm in 2019) in the target region Suzak (Figure 6);

(vi) The target areas were indicated by the Government of Kyrgyzstan as regions with high risk of landslides, but the annual precipitation analysis in Suzak shows a scenario of precipitation decrease (40%). In this case it is important to look at the monthly precipitation sums (Figure 7). From the graph we can observe that negative deviations have been intensified since the 90’s, reflecting the loss of total annual precipitation. Positive deviations continue to happen in spring and autumn as in the last 40 years, demonstrating the presence of erratic rainfalls that can potentially lead to landslides;

(vii) Further analysis of the daily precipitation (Figure 8), which are not available in Earth Map , shows that heavy rain events increased in number (around 4%), since the 80’s;

(viii) Looking at the local climate, we can observe that the mean average annual temperature in Suzak has increased from 4,8 °C in 1979 to 5,8 °C in 2019 and has an overall linear upward trend. This can affect the water availability, vegetation intensity and health conditions of grass in the mountain region (Figure 9);

(ix) The minimum temperature influences the quality of the grass especially when arriving to minus 25°C outside the winter months. As seen in Figure 10, the number of days with temperatures of minus 25 °C outside the winter months increased in the target regions. Most likely this has provoked grassland degradation in the target areas, exacerbating the already existing climate change impacts.

[1] This indicates the intensity and persistence of negative trends and changes of the photosynthetically active vegetation cover over the observed period in the mountainous part.

Figure 1: Map with target areas located in Western Kyrgyzstan (from the Baseline Atlas). The target areas and potential expansion areas were selected through the identification of climate change hot spots considering different hazards.

Figure 2: Land Productivity Dynamics from 2001 to 2018 in one of the target regions, Suzak (data is derived from NDVI product of MOD13Q1 v006)

Figure 3: Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) change 2001-2019 in one of the target regions Suzak, (based on MOD13A1.006 Terra Vegetation)

Figure 4: Total annual precipitation (mm) from 1981-2019 in the whole country Kyrgyzstan (based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final))

Figure 5: Precipitation change (mm) from 1981-2019 for the whole country Kyrgyzstan (based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final))

Figure 6: Total annual precipitation (mm) from 1981-2019 in one of the target areas Suzak (based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final))

Figure 7: Monthly precipitation sum and deviation (mm) from 1981-2019 in one of the target areas Suzak (based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final))

Figure 8: Distribution of heavy rain events in the target region (daily precipitation data not available in Earth Map, based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final)).

Fig 9: Yearly mean temperature (°C) from 1979 - 2019 in one of the target areas Suzak (based on ERA5 Monthly aggregates - Latest climate reanalysis produced by ECMWF / Copernicus Climate Change Service)

Fig 10: Number of days with min temperatures -25 (°C) outside the winter months (daily precipitation data not available in Earth Map, based on CHIRPS Daily: Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station Data (version 2.0 final)).