Nature: Collapsing Glaciers Threaten Asia’s Water Supplies
On Jan.3, 2019, Nature published a comment entitled “Collapsing Glaciers Threaten Asia’s Water Supplies”, which underlined the significance of a weather and isotope-monitoring network as water cycle processes accelerate across the Third Pole. The paper called for more research on Third Pole water cycle from scientists as well as social scientists, so that a water-focused monitoring-modelling system can be established to serve water management in Asian Water Tower and the Belt and Road region. The article is written by the research group led by Prof. YAO Tandong, research professor at Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences (ITPCAS), Chair of Third Pole Environment (TPE), Chief Scientist of Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE) as well as the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP).
By examining how climate change has affected frozen reservoirs as well as rivers and lakes in the region, the comment paper advocates for a high-resolution three-dimensional (ground-air) isotope-monitoring network along the pathways of westerlies and monsoons. According to the paper, with support from PAN-TPE and STEP, TPE and ITPCAS will further expand their already largest monitoring network of land surface water vapor isotope to cover two transects in the region: a south–north transect where climate is primarily controlled by monsoon and an east-west one mostly influenced by westerly. The interplay between elevations, atmospheric circulation and water vapor will be tracked through hourly measurements at three hotspots: the Pamir Mountains (dominated by westerlies), the Himalayas (affected by the Indian monsoon) and the Hengduan Mountains (where the East Asian monsoon prevails). Meanwhile, the paper stressed the importance of data availability for global and regional climate models as it argues that “a new generation of Earth-system models should be developed for the Third Pole, representing its atmosphere, cryosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere”. Such efforts, according to the paper, will allow us to “explore the regional implications of different scenarios of human activities and climate-mitigation strategies”, as well as “help communities to understand what is happening to their climate and environment, and enable them to craft strategies for managing risks and adaptation”.
The Third Pole Environment is an international program started in 2009 by frontier scientists Profs. YAO Tandong, elected member of Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Lonnie Thompson, elected member of National Academy of Sciences, and Volker Mosbrugger, elected member of German Academy of Natural Scientists, Leopoldina. In 2011, TPE is endorsed as flagship program by UNESCO, SCOPE and UNEP. TPE set up offices in US, Sweden and Germany in 2015. The TPE program developed into Pan-TPE program in 2016, which aims to form a regional alliance of TPE Overseas Centers for Research and Education, and a global network of TPE Scientific Centers with top scientists across the world, so as to enable world-class scientific breakthroughs in earth system science, especially in fields of westerly-monsoon interaction, and impact of climate change on water resources and ecosystems. In 2018, Pan-TPE officially established partnership with WMO* and UNEP.
In August, 2017, the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) was launched in Lhasa, with former Vice Premier LIU Yandong reading the congratulatory letter from Chinese President XI Jinping. Prof. YAO Tandong is appointed as the chief scientist of STEP. With a focus on water, ecology and human activities, long-term large-scale monitoring and in-depth investigation will be conducted under STEP to better understand the mechanism of Tibetan Plateau environmental changes and their implications for human and society, as it hopes to provide science-based solutions to preserve and strengthen the capacity of Tibetan Plateau and the broader Asian Water Tower as ecological buffers, to build a cluster of Third Pole national parks as well as to develop green development pathways in the region and beyond. So far, STEP has revealed the differentiated uplift of the Himalayas and the biological evolution shaped by coexisting “Out of Tibet” and “Plateau Hub”; it has also detected faster melting of and more frequent catastrophes in the Asian Water Tower as a result of warmer and wetter climate. STEP also warned of potential risks in ecosystems while recognizing their general improvement, developed a scientific plan for Siling Co. National Park and proposed to build a cluster of Third Pole national parks.
Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road (Pan-TPE) is initiated to echo the Belt and Road Initiative and the call to “protect the last pure land on the earth”. Anchored in the field of environmental impact and resource sustainability, the Pan-TPE program is designed to integrate basic science, applied studies, technology innovation and policy-advising. It is the program’s ambition to explain environmental changes across Pan-Third Pole and their implications, to provide solutions to resource and environmental challenges in high-priority projects, and to explore pathways for sustainable development along the Silk Road. Pan-TPE is launched in 2018.
This study is primarily supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (A) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences: the Pan-Third Pole Environment Study for a Green Silk Road.
Citation: Jing Gao, Yao T, Masson-Delmotte V, Steen-Larsen H C, Wang W. Collapsing glaciers threaten Asia's water supplies. Nature, 2019, 565: 19-21
The interplay between elevations, atmospheric circulation and water vapor will be tracked through hourly measurements at three hotspots: the Pamir Mountains (dominated by westerlies), the Himalayas (affected by the Indian monsoon) and the Hengduan Mountains (where the East Asian monsoon prevails).Each site will host 10 stations at 200-metre intervals in altitude.