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image: Achievements and future objectives of the Environment Program of the Third Pole
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Credit: TPE

As the highest region on Earth, the Tibetan Plateau spawns the most intriguing myths in Earth system science, provides the most water resources for human survival, and creates the most uncertain legacy for future generations. .

The region’s extreme environment prevented researchers from exploring its wealth of knowledge until the 1970s, when the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) organized the first scientific expedition to the region. In 1980, the first International Tibetan Plateau Symposium was held, marking the beginning of an international collaboration on Tibetan Plateau research, which eventually developed into the Third Pole Environment (TPE), a flagship program sponsored under the auspices of UNESCO, UNEP, SCOPE. , and CAS.

“The name ‘Third Pole’ has been used to emphasize the scientific importance of the region as the third largest reservoir of frozen water after the Arctic and Antarctica,” said YAO Tandong, an elected member of CAS, which launched the program with counterparts Lonnie G. Thompson from the United States and Volker Mosbrugger from Germany in 2009. They were later joined by Deliang Chen from Sweden and PIAO Shilong from China.

This scientific approach to TPE has paid off. According to a recent commentary article in Nature reviews Earth and environment (NREE), “TPE now includes more than 300 researchers from 30 countries, with expertise spanning meteorology, hydrology, glaciology, ecology and paleoclimatology.”

“We built the TPE to allow scientists from different countries and all disciplines to compare notes,” said TPE co-chair Lonnie Thompson, of the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at Ohio State University, where researchers ice cores extracted from the Tibetan plateau are studied. parallel to those of the Arctic and the Antarctic as well as in Peru. “Ice core records and tree-ring records can also be compared to further calibrate our understanding of Earth’s history,” he added.

“Another strength of the TPE is that it brings together research resources from around the world to focus on the most demanding scientific tasks,” said TPE co-chair Deliang Chen of the University of Gothenburg. “Key scientific questions tend to surface when information is brought together across countries and disciplines.”

Putting recent observations into historical context, TPE scientists have found that the most dramatic changes to the roof of the world in the past 2,000 years have all occurred within the past 50 years, i.e. say since the first scientific expedition to the Tibetan plateau. These changes gave rise to the Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP), a project launched in 2017 to assess environmental changes since the first expedition and their implications. In his last NREE review article, YAO reported on STEP’s findings that water storage in the region has been thrown out of balance by climate change. It is now characterized by more liquid water and less solid water, with more liquid water in the north and less in the south.

“The rapid changes we have seen are alarming, making the climate projection for the region more important than ever,” said Deliang Chen, who leads a WCRP-CORDEX Flagship Pilot Study (FPS) project on climate modeling of the region. “For more accurate prediction, we integrate our understanding of individual processes into a modeling framework spanning various spatial scales.”

“We are also taking a more active role in facilitating adaptation efforts,” said PIAO Shilong, deputy director of CAS’s Tibetan Plateau Research Institute, which is leading TPE’s efforts to assess the carbon budget of the region. the region to inform climate-related policymaking.

Try this interaction to learn more about TPEs: https://view.genial.ly/63158cbe6da5ac00186e6139.

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