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Author Topic: Tibet, the "third pole"  (Read 7384 times)

Anne

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Tibet, the "third pole"
« on: May 17, 2013, 06:51:09 PM »
Interesting article in a recent Economist. In April, the Third Pole Environment (TPE) held its fourth workshop in Dehradun, India. Until recently, research into Tibet's glaciers has been piecemeal. Overall, the glaciers of "Asia's water tower" are in retreat but not uniformly: the region is complex.
<snip>The Chinese Academy of Sciences has therefore set up a fund of 400m yuan ($65m) for research on the Third Pole and, crucially, a quarter of this is earmarked for work outside China.

The TPE’s researchers will now monitor a set of bellwether glaciers every six months. They will set up observatories to measure solar radiation, snowfall, meltwater and changes in the soil, as well as air temperature, pressure, humidity and wind. And they plan to take cores from the ice on the Tibetan plateau. These will let them reconstruct the area’s climate over the past few hundred thousand years. Together, these data will give them a better grip on how much—and why—the Third Pole is changing.


Worth reading the whole thing.

This UNESCO-SCOPE-UNEP Policy brief on the Third Pole Environment (pdf) provides some background.

Anne

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #1 on: September 01, 2013, 09:58:04 AM »
Interesting article in the FT:
Tibet: life on the climate front line
High in the Tibetan plateau, the earth has been warming much faster than the rest of the world for the past 50 years. The grasslands are disappearing - along with the livelihood of nomadic herders. In the name of 'ecological restoration', the Chinese government is moving thousands of 'ecological migrants' into new towns where many fall into poverty.

The Chinese government has made attempts to halt and reverse the decline of the grasslands, by removing herders, poisoning rodents, fencing the land, and planting new grasses. These measures have all had consequences, but not the intended ones.
More and more research has shown that the science behind the state’s policies is misguided or incomplete. Inside China, the topic has become somewhat controversial. The government has already spent more than a billion dollars on “restoring” the plateau and few scientists are willing to criticise its approach. Several top Chinese scientists who study the ecology of the region declined to be interviewed for this article, saying the subject is too sensitive. Others were forced by their institutions to cancel scheduled interviews. “We just want for the government’s policies to be based on science,” said one university professor who researches the plateau, and asked that her name not be used for fear of recrimination.
Her accusation that the policies are unscientific is serious, because one of the main stated principles of the Chinese government is “scientific development”. Environmentalists in the west often look longingly at the fact that there is virtually no debate among China’s leaders about whether or not the world’s climate is changing. But that doesn’t make it easier to craft policies that deal with the problem.

Great article, with a lot of human interest. Well worth signing up for their free subscription service (I think it's currently 8 articles a month) to read it.

Oh, and some great photographs.

Anne

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2013, 05:13:42 PM »
Glaciers at high elevations are losing mass, threatening the water supply for millions.
The Tibetan glaciers are shrinking. Most of the retreat is thought to be taking place at low elevations, but research now shows that the glaciers may also be losing ice at altitudes up to 6,000 metres.

“The glaciers are virtually being decapitated from the top by a warming climate,” says Kang Shichang, a glaciologist at Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research in Beijing.
A core from the Lanong glacier in southern Tibet shows neither the tritium peak associated with nuclear testing nor any trace of radioactive compounds from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine in 1986. This suggests that ice layers laid down on the glacier from the 1950s onwards have melted or sublimated away.

The second ice core, from the Guoqu glacier in central Tibet, has the chemical fingerprints of the nuclear tests and the Galunggung volcanic eruption in Indonesia in 1982, but not the Chernobyl signal. Moreover, the core's mercury content, which tracks well with global and regional emission trends, ends abruptly in the 1980s. “The glacier has been losing ice in the past three decades,” says Kang.


http://www.nature.com/news/tibetan-glaciers-are-shrinking-at-their-summits-1.13767

bligh8

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #3 on: October 17, 2013, 06:34:04 PM »
Anne

I saw a show on Al Jazeera America news that highlighted this problem from a human perspective, in that folks who have lived at or near the base of these glaciers for the last 1500 years are now being forced to relocate because, either there is no more water for drinking or irrigation or they live in constant peril from floods from ice melt water forming lakes and the rock/earth dams that naturally occur bursting without notice.
It was pointed out that there has been some effort to mitigate the problem which was largely unsuccessful. The entire show was rather depressing and clearly demonstrated the consequences of unchecked gw.

Best,
Bligh

ChrisReynolds

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #4 on: October 20, 2013, 10:03:27 PM »
I've just seen a amazing programme on Channel 4 (UK). They investigated the yeti in the Himalayas. The final conclusion was that DNA testing on two samples of hair revealed the animal from which the hair was taken to have polar bear DNA! The scientist concerned suspected that the animal was a hybrid bear/polar bear, but the polar bear part coming from early in the Pleistocene, at the time when polar bears emerged from the other bear populations as a seperate species. The closest DNA match was from a jaw bone dating back to the early Pleistocene from Svalbard.

Did the 'yeti bear' migrate to the Himalaya during the depths of one of the last ice ages?

http://www.channel4.com/info/press/news/has-a-british-scientist-finally-unlocked-the-mystery-of-the-yeti

idunno

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ChrisReynolds

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2013, 06:35:17 PM »
Thanks Idunno,

I must admit I have an abiding interest in 'wacko science', UFOs, Atlantis, etc. Which is not to say I take it seriously. To find the Yeti is likely real, and that it appears to have such a fascinating lineage really excites me. It's good to know there are intriguing secrets out there.

The next stage of the game - to film a Yeti Bear...

Laurent

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #7 on: December 22, 2014, 09:08:13 PM »

crandles

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #8 on: December 22, 2014, 10:35:02 PM »
I've just seen a amazing programme on Channel 4 (UK). They investigated the yeti in the Himalayas. The final conclusion was that DNA testing on two samples of hair revealed the animal from which the hair was taken to have polar bear DNA! The scientist concerned suspected that the animal was a hybrid bear/polar bear, but the polar bear part coming from early in the Pleistocene, at the time when polar bears emerged from the other bear populations as a seperate species. The closest DNA match was from a jaw bone dating back to the early Pleistocene from Svalbard.


Seems some of this is now being challenged
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-30479718

even accepted as being an error:

But two other scientists have said re-analysis of the same data shows the hairs belong to the Himalayan bear, a sub-species of the brown bear.

...

Prof Sykes and the other members of the team behind the earlier yeti hairs analysis have acknowledged that there was an error caused by an incomplete search of the DNA database used.

However, they said in a statement: "Importantly, for the thrust of the paper as a whole, the conclusion that these Himalayan 'yeti' samples were certainly not from a hitherto unknown primate is unaffected."

AbruptSLR

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2015, 01:49:45 AM »
The linked article shows that short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are causing ice mass loss from Himalaya glaciers to accelerate:

http://www.rtcc.org/2015/03/06/himalayas-count-cost-of-damage-from-soot-methane-and-hfcs/

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
― Leon C. Megginson

sunkensheep

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #10 on: March 20, 2015, 06:58:28 AM »
Soot is also thought responsible for a decline in European glaciers during the 'little ice age'.
http://www.nature.com/news/how-soot-killed-the-little-ice-age-1.13650

We know that China and India have a problem with soot and other particulates in quantities similar to early industrial Europe. This also gives pause for thought when considering what the current trend toward more arctic wildfires may do to Greenland.

Anne

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2016, 01:14:21 PM »
Ice core samples from Tibet reveal the higher the elevation, the greater the warming. (SA human interest story, rather than science paper.)
Lonnie Thompson, a glaciologist at The Ohio State University (O.S.U.) in Columbus, does not believe in the impossible. More than three decades ago he led an expedition that retrieved ice cores from the Quelccaya Ice Cap in Peru at 5,670 meters above sea level, which most glaciologists at the time considered too high for humans to conduct this kind of work. The exquisitely preserved layers of dust and air bubbles in the cores provided an unprecedented climate history of the tropics, and Thompson’s work has come to focus on the increasingly important climate change lessons to be learned from Earth’s so-called “third pole”—the ancient and massive buildup of glacial ice straddling the subtropics in Tibet.
Thompson has since led more than 60 expeditions around the world, painstakingly retrieving ice cores from low and middle latitudes in 16 countries, including the world’s highest ice-core site on the Dasuopu Glacier in Tibet at 7,200 meters. In September 2015—three and half years after having a heart transplant—the 67-year-old glaciologist reached 6,700 meters on Tibet’s Guliya Ice Cap.

[Tibetan ice cores] have given us a glimpse of Tibet’s climate history going back to more than half a million years. We learned that the extent of glaciation is related to how far monsoonal rains penetrate the Tibetan Plateau. This is in step with the slow wobbling of Earth’s rotational axis, which drives tropical rainfall in 21,000-year cycles. We also identified periods when average temperatures in Tibet went up and down by several degrees Celsius in roughly 200-year cycles. It’s still a mystery why that was the case, but we suspect this may be related to the 205-year cycle of solar activity.
In more recent times an interesting discovery is that the higher the elevation, the greater warming we have. This is in line with the observation that the vast majority of glaciers in Tibet and the Himalayas are retreating. In some extreme cases, as ice cores from the Naimona’nyi Glacier in southern Tibet show, all the snow and ice that accumulated since 1950 has melted or sublimated away at altitudes as high as 6,000 meters above sea level.
[This ice loss] is not unique to Tibetan and Himalayan glaciers. The picture is the same for nearly all mountain glaciers around the world. The summit ice cover of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, for instance, has shrunk by 85 percent in the past century. If the current climate conditions persist, it won’t be long before Africa’s highest mountain is ice-free. At the Quelccaya Ice Cap in the Peruvian Andes, glaciers that accumulated over 1,600 years have melted in just 25 years.
Such analyses provide some of the strongest evidence to date that our climate is going through a period of unprecedented warming on a large scale. One of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century is how to get along with each other, and another is how to get along with our planet. The world should act together to curb emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants.

Scientific American
H/T Colorado Bob

solartim27

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #12 on: October 27, 2016, 09:46:47 PM »
2nd massive ice avalanche in Tibet

“Even one of these gigantic glacier avalanches is very unusual. Two within close geographical and temporal vicinity is, to our best knowledge, unprecedented.”


http://earthsky.org/earth/2nd-massive-ice-avalanche-in-tibet
FNORD

Sigmetnow

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Re: Tibet, the "third pole"
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2016, 06:20:46 PM »
“Glacial collapse is unprecedented in western Tibet, which for decades has resisted the effects of climate change while glaciers in southern and eastern Tibet have melted at an accelerating rate.”

Climate Change Likely Caused Deadly 2016 Avalanche In Tibet
The most important fact about the avalanche, said Thompson, is that it lasted only four or five minutes (according to witnesses), yet it managed to bury 3.7 square miles of the valley floor in that time. He said something–likely meltwater at the base of the glacier–must have lubricated the ice to speed its flow down the mountain.

“Given the rate at which the event occurred and the area covered, I think it could only happen in the presence of meltwater,” Thompson said. Other nearby glaciers may be vulnerable, he added, “but unfortunately as of today, we have no ability to predict such disasters.”
http://www.eurasiareview.com/09122016-climate-change-likely-caused-deadly-2016-avalanche-in-tibet/
People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it.