Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Chinese Version)


Asian Water Tower; unbalanced change; hazards effects; far-reaching effect

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The Tibetan Plateau and surroundings, also known as the Third Pole, is widely acknowledged as the Asian Water Tower. It holds glaciers with an area about 100 000 km 2, and lakes with an area about 50 000 km 2. It gives birth to more than ten big rivers in Asia including the Yangtze River, Yellow River, Yarlung Tsangpo, Indus, Ganges, Mekong, Amu Darya, Tarim River, etc. Its environmental changes affect water resources utilization in China and water securities in many nations involved in the Belt and Road initiative. The Asian Water Tower is undergoing dramatic changes characterized with unbalance in a warming climate. Accelerated glacier retreats, permafrost degradation, lake expansion, as well as increase of glacial melt to runoff are all related to the unbalance change of the Asian Water Tower. These have put the Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding regions at risk and caused many water-related hazards such as glacier collapse. Asian Water Tower change would even be amplified through the atmosphere and hydrosphere to affect global climate and water cycle, thus coupling and interacting with changes on the Arctic and Antarctica. The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research program (STEP) and Pan-Third Pole Environment study for a Green Silk Road program (Pan-TPE) will focus on the study of Asian Water Tower change and its local to regional impacts in the past half century, conduct comprehensive field expeditions and research, and advise on science policy to confront Asian Water Tower change and impacts. The ultimate goal of the STEP and Pan-TPE is to provide scientific advice to China and nations around on water resources regulations and sustainable development, thus serving global ecological environment and a community with a shared future for mankind.

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Bulletin of Chinese Academy of Sciences


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