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Tibetan Plateau lakes seen freezing late, melting early due to climate change

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(TibetanReview.net, Dec07’22) – The lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, the world’s highest, showed a trend of delayed freezing and earlier melting compared to what had been usual over the four decades up until 2017, underscoring the impact of climate change on some of the planet’s most vulnerable regions, reported the sixthtone.com Dec 6, citing a new study.

Zhang Bing, co-author of the study, has told Sixth Tone that the study is the first of its kind to look at lake freezing patterns on the Tibetan Plateau in the 40-year period, which could offer projections of future changes and help make policies in terms of production and life, such as water supply in downstream areas.

Around four-fifths of the 132 lakes monitored on the Tibetan Plateau saw the length of time they were covered by ice shortened by a certain period ranging from a few days to over 50 days between 1978 and 2017, the study, published Dec 2, was cited as saying.

The publication appeared in Scientific Data, Nature’s open access scientific journal, by researchers from the Chinese state-backed China Academy of Sciences, the report said.

The Tibetan Plateau (which China calls the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau) is home to many glaciers and lakes. It is the source of 10 major rivers in Asia, providing water supply to almost 2 billion people, and is, therefore, referred to as Asia’s “water tower”.

While this designation will continue to remain, the fact remains that warming global temperatures have led to the disappearance of some 6,000 glaciers on the -Tibetan Plateau over the decades, studies were stated to show. The average temperature in the region increased by 0.42 degrees Celsius per decade from 1980 to 2018, twice the global average rate, the report cited a separate June study by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as showing.

The report cited researchers as saying data on the freezing-up and breaking-up of lake ice on the high-altitude plateaus had rarely been recorded before because ground-based observation on the Tibetan Plateau is “challenging and costly” due to high altitudes and the harsh natural environment. The Dec 2 report is stated to be based on remote sensing and mathematical modeling supported by meteorological data.

The study was also stated to have added new evidence about how climate change could add new risks to the ecologically vulnerable region.

In recent previous studies, scientists had warned of the supply and quality of water deteriorating due to accelerated warming in the area.

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