Why to study the mountain climate and why to analyse
the meteorological conditions at the highest elevations?
One of the main reasons is that mountain areas represent optimal sites where to detect
the Global Change and to evaluate the climate-induced effects (Beniston, 2003). As a
consequence of the rapid climatic changes with altitude, hydrological and vegetational
features are subject to large variations occurring over short horizontal distances
(Whiteman, 2000). Beside of this, the mountain morphologic and ecologic systems
are often unique and endemics. Some mountain ranges have been defined as “islands”
in the surrounding plains (Hedberg, 1964). From the socio-economic point of view,
mountain areas are an attraction to many people interested in the tourist and
recreational opportunities they offer: this has the effect to create a useful
income source for the local population, but also determines an ever increasing
environmental stress which often act in synergy with the effects of Global
Change (Godde et al., 2000).
Recent researches (Beniston, 2003) have thus suggested investigating the effects of
Global Change in remote areas at high altitudes or high latitudes, where direct
effects of human presence can be expected to be low or nonexistent. The study
of the effects of Global Change on limited parts of our Planet (as in the Alps
or in selected parts of them) is justified by the topographic and orographic
complexity typical of mountain areas which imply fast and abrupt variations
of climatic parameters, such as temperature, precipitations and radiation
(Becker and Bugmann, 1997).