Temperatures in China’s Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau have risen more than three times faster than the global average, Chinese data shows

The increase in temperature in the region caused by global warming

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According to the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the average temperatures in the north-eastern part of the vast plateau that extends into Tibet and Qinghai have increased three times faster than in the rest of the world.

The plateau, often dubbed the Roof of the World, which spans over 1000 km from north to south, and 2000 km from east to west, is also the source of the longest rivers in the world, the Yangtze.

The average temperature of the Qinghai plateau section has increased by 0.43 degrees Celsius per decade, compared to a global average increase of 0.12 degrees per decade, according to a recent state report on the province.

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The frozen lakes dotting the Tibetan plateau in Central Asia are depicted in this image, acquired on January 30, 2012 by ESA’s Envisat satellite. To the south, Tibet borders the Himalayan range – a part of which is visible in the lower left corner of the image. To the northwest, we can see part of the Kunlun mountains, which separate the plateau from the Tarim basin. Both salt and freshwater lakes are visible through the steppe – many of which freeze for many months of the year. [ESA]
Statistics have revealed that the area has also become more humid between 1961 and 2017, with an increase in annual precipitation of around 8 mm.

According to a report by the United Nations (Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change), released a few days ago, human activities are estimated to have caused approximately 1.0°C of global warming above pre-industrial levels, with a likely range of 0.8°C to 1.2°C. Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.

“Warming greater than the global annual average is being experienced in many land regions and seasons, including two to three times higher in the Arctic.

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A satellite image of NASA from the Himalayan mountain range and the Tibetan plateau

Climate-related risks for natural and human systems are higher for global warming of 1.5°C than at present.”

“These risks depend on the magnitude and rate of warming, geographic location, levels of development and vulnerability, and on the choices and implementation of adaptation and mitigation options: impacts on natural and human systems from global warming, many land and ocean ecosystems and some of the services they provide have already changed due to global warming.

Some impacts may be long-lasting or irreversible, such as the loss of some ecosystems.”

The glaciers of the plateau and neighboring regions have lost 15% of their mass in the last 50 years, according to Chinese media.

Consequence of the melting of the ice in Tibet, is the expansion of lakes and rivers that originate in the area.

Furthermore, the thawing of permafrost on the plateau, which accounts for up to a quarter of China’s carbon sinks, could free up previously trapped coal and further accelerate temperature warming.

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The Qinghai Lake, the largest in China, has expanded to 4,400 sq km of area, almost doubling its surface area in almost two decades, according to the provincial monitoring data published in 2017.

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A nature reserve on Qinghai Lake

Image source: ESA, wikimedia, reuters, wikimedia 2

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