Tibetan plateau becomes focus of intense climate study

Tibetans are seen near the Kharola glacier some 200km (125 miles) west  

The Tibetan plateau has become the focus of intense meteorological study in a never-before attempt to understand its effect on climate locally as well as globally, notes Nature News.

This development follows close on the heels of the massive floods which hit Kashmir and Pakistan recently.

The $49-million Chinese effort, in which the plateau is being flooded with sensors, is aimed to help predict extreme weather — both in Asia and as far away as North America — and give scientists knowledge on how climate change affects these events.

Having a high altitude, the plateau receives more sunlight, gets hotter than land at sea level. Acting like a giant heating plate it pumps air upwards which disperses in the upper troposphere, influencing atmospheric circulation and thereby, climate.

The heat also intensifies monsoons, which are caused by land-ocean temperature differences which in turn cause pressure gradients.

Being the biggest and highest plateau in the world, it disturbs the troposphere unlike any other structure on earth. However, there are little data on the impact on climate.

The plateau’s remoteness, altitude and harsh conditions — it is often called the third pole because it hosts the world’s third-largest stock of ice — meaning that even basic weather stations are few.

Satellite data are also plagued by large errors owing to lack of calibration from ground observations.

But now, in central and western Tibet, researchers jointly funded by the China Meteorological Administration and the National Natural Science Foundation of China began, in August, to place temperature and moisture detectors in the soil and to erect 32-metre-high towers laden with sensors that measure cloud properties. In recent weeks, the team has begun deploying sensors mounted on weather balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles.

“The data should help determine the extent to which different types of land surface heat up the overlying air, and how this might vary in response to factors such as snow cover and vegetation changes,” Wu Guoxiong, an atmospheric scientist at the Institute of Atmospheric Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Beijing and a principal investigator of the project told Nature News.

“Climate models have the greatest uncertainties in Tibet and the Himalayas, and are especially weak at simulating monsoons,” Xu Xiangde, an atmospheric scientist at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences in Beijing and investigator on the project said to Nature News.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 6:18:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/tibetan-plateau-becomes-focus-of-intense-climate-study/article6466357.ece

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