Chinese scientists say that climate change may disrupt water supply and cause more frequent disasters on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
After investigating the area, scientists said that although rising temperatures have improved conditions in the short term, rapid climate change on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China may disrupt water supply and cause more frequent disasters.
This area covers most of Northwest China, including the Himalayas. It has been identified as one of China’s “ecological security barriers” and an important “water tower” for regulating the flow of East Asia, Central Asia, and South Asia.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a new report on Tuesday that the plateau areas are facing rising floods and more frequent extreme heat and rainfall.
Government researchers have found that the increase in temperature and rainfall has made the area greener, more fertile, and “beautiful”, enlarged lakes and rivers, and improved the habitat of gazelles, antelopes and donkeys.
“But in fact, this kind of’beauty’ will pay a high price. Significant warming and humidification have exacerbated the occurrence of extreme weather and climate events,” the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said in a summary of scientific research results.
In the long run, rising temperatures may further destabilize weather patterns and water flow, and encourage the invasion of invasive lowland species, putting local animals under pressure.
Since 1960, the temperature in the region has risen by 0.35 degrees Celsius (0.6 degrees Fahrenheit) every ten years, twice the global average. Since 1960, annual rainfall has increased by 7.9 mm (0.31 inches) per decade, reaching 539.6 mm (21.2 inches) per year during 2016-2020, which is 12.7% higher than the 1961-1990 average.
According to the report, these changes have led to a 20% increase in the area of some plateau lakes, and parts of the Gobi Desert have also begun to shrink. In the past 40 years, the number of disasters including mudslides, avalanches, and glacier ruptures has increased.
It remains to be seen whether the area “maintains within the optimal temperature range for vegetation growth”, and the water balance is also threatened by the rapid retreat of glaciers and the melting of permafrost.
According to the CMA, the area’s glaciers have shrunk by 15% in the past 50 years, and their total area has shrunk from 53,000 square kilometers (32.9 square miles) to 45,000 square kilometers (17,400 square miles).