Known as the "water tower" of Asia, the Tibetan Plateau provides fresh water to nearly 2 billion
“The prognosis is poor,” said Michael Mann,professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Pennsylvania, in a press release for the study. “In a business-as-usual scenario where fossil fuel burning does not decrease in the coming decades, we predict a 100 percent loss of water availability for regions downstream of the Tibetan Plateau. Problems are expected even under a moderate climate policy scenario.”
Despite its importance, the impact of climate change on groundwater supplies on the Tibetan Plateau is not well understood, scientists say.
A graph that shows the reduction in water supplies. Source: Penn State, Tsinghua University
To fill gaps in knowledge, expertsused measurements of the mass of water in glaciers, lakes and underground sources. They applied machine learning based on neural networks to the data. As a result, they were able to relate observed changes in total water supply to key climate variables, including air temperature, precipitation, humidity, cloud cover, and incoming sunlight. After training the model, climatologists predicted changes in freshwater stocks over the next four decades, from 2021 to 2060.
The Tibetan Plateau provides significantpart of the water needs of nearly 2 billion people,” said Di Long, assistant professor of hydrological engineering at Tsinghua University. “Ground water supplies in this region are critical to the population. At the same time, they are very strongly affected by climate change.”
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