The effects of climate change
The Tibetan Plateau contains the world's third-largest store of ice. Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, said that the recent fast pace of melting and warmer temperatures will be good for agriculture and tourism in the short term; but issued a strong warning:
"Temperatures are rising four times faster than elsewhere in China, and the Tibetan glaciers are retreating at a higher speed than in any other part of the world." "In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mudflows." "In the long run, the glaciers are vital lifelines for Asian rivers, including the Indus and the Ganges. Once they vanish, water supplies in those regions will be in peril."
Tibet during the Ice Age
Today Tibet is the most essential heating surface of the atmosphere. During the Last Ice Age a c. 2,400,000 square kilometres (930,000 sq mi) ice sheet covered the plateau. This glaciation took place in correspondence to a lowering of the snowline by 1,200 metres (3,900 ft). For the Last Glacial Maximum this means a depression of the average annual temperature by 7 to 8°C at a minor precipitation compared with that one of today. Owing to this drop in temperature a supposed drier climate has partly been compensated with regard to the glacier feeding by a minor evaporation and an increased relative humidity. Due to its great extension this glaciation in the subtropics was the most important climatically foreign element on earth. With an albedo about 80-90% this ice area of Tibet has reflected an at least 4 times greater global radiation energy per surface into space than the further inland ices at a higher geographical latitude. At that time the most essential heating surface of the atmosphere - which at present, i.e. interglacially, is the Tibetan plateau - was the most important cooling surface. The annual low-pressure area induced by heat above Tibet as a motor of the summer monsoon was lacking....