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Aerial view of the Tibetan Plateau

Observational and Modelling Data Help to Decipher the Third Pole of the World

The Tibetan Plateau nourishes several major rivers in Asia and is extremely vulnerable to climate change

by Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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The Tibetan Plateau, known as the "Third Pole" of the world, is not only the highest plateau on the Earth, but it is also considered the "Asian Water Tower." Its watershed nourishes more than 10 major rivers in Asia.

Like the North and South Poles, the Tibetan Plateau is also extremely vulnerable to climate change. Glaciers on it have been retreating extensively in recent decades. Atmospheric warming, circulation changes associated with increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, aerosols in the atmosphere, and light-absorbing particles, such as black carbon and dust on snow are all contributing to glacial retreat.

Recently, researchers from China, the USA, and the Netherlands have curated their Third Pole climate studies into a special issue of Advances in Atmospheric Sciences

"This special issue focuses on the analysis of observational and modelling data to better understand the roles that the Tibetan Plateau plays in Asia's climate and even the global climate," said Professor Chun Zhao from the University of Science and Technology of China, and one of the guest editors of the special issue.

Regarding the Tibetan Plateau's future climatology as indicated in the preface of the special issue, so far, scientists have not reached a consensus on a robust method of obtaining reliable climate projections. A complete physical attribution of climate change over the Tibetan Plateau needs further analysis.

The studies published in the special issue also suggest that the regional feedbacks from topography, snow cover, and the chemical-radiative-dynamical coupling processes are critical processes in climate systems. Future research should aim to better resolve these parameters to improve simulations of regional climate and air quality over the Tibetan Plateau.

- This press release was originally published on the Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences website