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Tibet’s glaciers affect billions

An area the size of Greenland, with glaciers that serve as water reservoirs for 1.5 billion people. It’s not surprising that the Tibetan Plateau is a very interesting area of research, and at the University of Gothenburg several scientists are studying Tibet.


he Tibetan Plateau is the highest and most extensive highlands in the world. The great Asian rivers all have their origins on the plateau or in the neighbouring mountains, and what happens on the plateau affects water resources for almost a third of the world’s population. Professor Deliang Chen leads the Regional Climate Group at the University of Gothenburg studying climate change in Tibet, among other things. With Chinese scientists from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the group has studied the impact of climate change on the water balance in the region. In a joint study published late last year, researchers demonstrated that the flow of water in rivers during the coming decades will either remain stable or increase compared with the



1971-2000 period. The result runs counter to apprehensions expressed in the 2007 climate report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and elsewhere that the glaciers would disappear by 2035 and water supplies in major Asian rivers would decline. ‘This is good news’, says Professor Chen, ‘because social and economic development in the surrounding areas, including China, India, Nepal and other countries in South East Asia, is highly dependent on climate and water supplies. But the fact that glaciers in the region are shrinking can become a concern in the long term, and we must keep a close watch over what’s happening with global warming.’ HE HAS BEEN very active in the Third Pole

Environment (TPE) international research programme that coordinates research on Tibet in 15 countries. Recently, Chen and some of the world’s foremost scientists led efforts that culminated in a 10-year research plan for the region. “There is still considerable uncertainty about the future of the glaciers, since our un-

Science Faculty Magazine No. 2 2016 - ENG  

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