Nav: Home

Feeling heat on the roof of the world

June 06, 2019

The Tibetan Plateau, also known as the "roof of the world," is getting hotter. This process is especially fast in places marked by retreating snow, according to new research by scientists from the University of Portsmouth and the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (ITPCAS).

"It is critically important to understand what is happening as a result of global warming at high elevations on the plateau where nearly all of the current snow and ice in the region exists. Changes in these mountain snow reserves are critical for the supply of water to billions of people in both China and India, and they are threatened by climate change," said Dr. Nick Pepin, lead author of the study.

Earlier research indicated that the rate of warming can be amplified with elevation, such that high-altitude environments often experience more rapid changes in temperature than lower ones. This phenomenon, known as Elevation-Dependent Warming (EDW), drove the scientists to explore temperature trends at high elevations across the Tibetan Plateau, where temperature readings are scarce yet crucial for understanding global warming.

Direct measurements of air temperature are unavailable in remote higher elevation regions, since harsh conditions often prohibit setting up manned weather stations. Scientists have to rely on satellites for information in higher elevation regions.

The raw satellite data, though potentially useful, is not representative enough for temperature trend analysis since clouds potentially confuse the data. Also, local factors such as vegetation and concrete/grasses can obscure the wider picture.

This is where the team's research came in. They made a customized model so that precise air temperatures in Tibetan mountains could be deduced from satellite data.

With this model, the researchers found a marked peak in warming rates around 5000-5500 m in the Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains, one of the major ranges in the central part of the plateau. This warming is particularly strong during the day. The disappearance of snow cover seems to be the most obvious reason for this increased warming.

"Snow reflects sunlight during the day. So when it is reduced it causes even more warming, especially at the height where it is disappearing fastest," said Dr. Pepin. During the night there is also enhanced warming more broadly at higher altitudes (up to 6500 m), which is thought to be related to changes in both cloud patterns and moisture.
Dr. Pepin was supported by a PIFI scholarship provided by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and was hosted by the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research. This study was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (PAN-TPE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Chinese Academy of Sciences Headquarters

Related Climate Change Articles:

The black forest and climate change
Silver and Douglas firs could replace Norway spruce in the long run due to their greater resistance to droughts.
For some US counties, climate change will be particularly costly
A highly granular assessment of the impacts of climate change on the US economy suggests that each 1┬░Celsius increase in temperature will cost 1.2 percent of the country's gross domestic product, on average.
Climate change label leads to climate science acceptance
A new Cornell University study finds that labels matter when it comes to acceptance of climate science.
Was that climate change?
A new four-step 'framework' aims to test the contribution of climate change to record-setting extreme weather events.
It's more than just climate change
Accurately modeling climate change and interactive human factors -- including inequality, consumption, and population -- is essential for the effective science-based policies and measures needed to benefit and sustain current and future generations.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#534 Bacteria are Coming for Your OJ
What makes breakfast, breakfast? Well, according to every movie and TV show we've ever seen, a big glass of orange juice is basically required. But our morning grapefruit might be in danger. Why? Citrus greening, a bacteria carried by a bug, has infected 90% of the citrus groves in Florida. It's coming for your OJ. We'll talk with University of Maryland plant virologist Anne Simon about ways to stop the citrus killer, and with science writer and journalist Maryn McKenna about why throwing antibiotics at the problem is probably not the solution. Related links: A Review of the Citrus Greening...