The central Asian cryosphere is a part of our planet´s climate and hydrological system, one that is especially at risk from climate change and global warming. The seasonal snow cover and glaciers´ disappearance may affect the livelihood of millions of people in Central Asia. Water is both a crucial limiting resource and a central unifying element in many coupled human-natural systems, particularly in central Asian arid endorheic basins. Approximately 18% of the Earth´s land drains to endorheic basins. The largest of these basins are in the interior of Asia. Endorheic basins are located mainly inland, surrounded by mountains, and fed by water from seasonal snow and glaciers. The diminishing glaciers and snow cover significantly affect endorheic basins´ hydrology and contribute to progressive land degradation. The disappearance of small glaciers from river basins has already led to a decline in river discharge, strongly affecting downstream agriculture and forcing people to move from their villages to densely populated settlements or rapidly growing urban areas, where the demand for water has exceeded the supply. Water for human consumption, agriculture, and industry in densely populated areas is especially essential in the World´s arid and semi-arid regions. At the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century, central Asia oases began suffering from serious multi-year droughts in low river reaches, while spring flash floods and mudflows at upper and middle river reaches become more frequent. Understanding the component parts of cryosphere-hydrologic-ecological systems and linking them into a coherent picture is focus of the presented manuscript. In this primer, authors introduce the unique alpine cryosphere of central Asia and the role it plays in regional and global climate and hydrological system. After giving an overview, authors fully explain each component of the cryosphere and how it works in a natural system of seasonal snow-glaciers-permafrost-river runoff formation. Authors describe how snow and glaciers interact with atmosphere, endorheic basins hydrology and the feedback effect of changed cryosphere on regional and even global climate, water resources and environment. Authors used modern surface observational, remote sensed, ice-cores and paleo-geomorphological data to explain the glacial and inter-glacial periods, the cryosphere´s interaction with past and contemporary climate and consider the changing cryosphere´s future impact on climate, water resources and ecology in central Asia.
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