The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, one of the most imposing topographic features on the Earth's surface, has a mean elevation of ~5 km and comprises an area half that of the United States. Sensible heat flux and the latent heat release over the Q-T Plateau drives the regionally intense monsoon circulation and strongly influences global circulation patterns. Reliable meteorological observations are largely absent from this region. Ice sheets and ice caps serve as libraries of atmospheric history from which past climatic and environmental conditions may be extrapolated. Glaciers occur at high elevations on the Q-T Plateau and cover an area of ~57,000 km2 and thus judiciously selected ice caps provide the potential to develop a spatially coherent climate history for the region. Our Chinese projects on Dasuopu, Dunde and Guliya (see map) are described briefly. The paper below compares high resolution ice core records from the Dunde Ice Cap on the northeastern margin of the Q-T Plateau and the Guliya Ice Cap on the far western margin.
Thompson, L.G. 1996. Climatic changes for the last 2000 years inferred from ice-core evidence in tropical ice cores. In: Climatic Variations and Forcing Mechanisms of the Last 2,000 Years, P.D. Jones, R. Bradley and J. Jouzel, editors. NATO Advanced Research Series I, 41, 281-295. PDF
On the south central rim of the Tibetan Plateau, the highest and largest plateau in the world, Dasuopu (28oN 85oE, 6900 m) will fill a gap in paleoclimate records and become part of the Austral-Asian transect in an international project under Past Global Changes (PAGES) Pole Equator Pole (PEP) II Program. This project will attempt to recover the highest ice core ever drilled. The Dasoupu core will complement ice cores previously drilled from ice caps on the northeastern (Dunde) and northwestern (Guliya) margins of the Tibetan plateau. These projects are described below.
The Asian monsoon influences the most heavily populated region in the world and is recognized as a significant component of the global atmospheric circulation. Dasuopu is well within the monsoonal airflow and should have annually recognizable wet to dry season layers in both oxygen isotopic ratio and dust. Yearly resolution is expected for the last 1000 to 3000 years. Decadal resolution is expected for the remainder of the core. Since the Asian monsoons are related to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), this core should add to the knowledge of ENSO variability and its connections to other parts of the world.
Scientists from the Lanzhou Institute of Glaciology and Geocryology, China will join The Ohio State University's Department of Geological Sciences and Byrd Polar Research Center in this three part project. Each part will take approximately one year. The initial field work will include short pulse radar, pit sampling, and accumulation/strain network which will better assess the likelihood of this col containing high resolution, well-preserved ice records. The following year will include drilling a core to bedrock and borehole temperature measurements. Finally, the field work will be followed up by laboratory analyses of the ice and data interpretation. An alternative site, Chongduipu, is located next to Dasuopu. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation.
Thompson, L.G., E. Mosley-Thompson and 8 others. 1989. Holocene-Late Pleistocene climatic ice core records from Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Science, 246(4929), 474-477. PDF
Thompson, L.G., E. Mosley-Thompson, and 8 others. 1990. Glacial Stage ice core records from the subtropical Dunde ice cap, China. Annals of Glaciology, 14, 288-297. PDF
Thompson, L.G., E. Mosley-Thompson and five others. 1993. "Recent warming": ice core evidence from tropical ice cores with emphasis upon Central Asia. Global and Planetary Change, 7, 145-156. PDF
Feng, Z., L.G. Thompson, E. Mosley-Thompson, J. Dai, M.E. Davis and P.N. Lin. 1993. Temporal and spatial variations of climate in China during the past 10,000 years. The Holocene, 3(2), 174-180. PDF
Lin, P.N., L.G. Thompson, M.E. Davis and E. Mosley-Thompson. 1995. 1000 years of climatic change in China: Ice core δ18O evidence. Annals of Glaciology, 21, 189-195. PDF
Thompson, L.G., M.E. Davis, P.N. Lin, J. Dai, J.F. Bolzan, and T. Yao. 1995. 1000 year climate ice-core record from the Guliya ice cap, China: its relationship to global climate variability. Annals of Glaciology, 21, 175-181. PDF
Thompson, L.G., T. Yao, M.E. Davis, K.A. Henderson, E. Mosley-Thompson, P.N. Lin, J. Beer, H.-A. Synal, J. Cole-Dai, and J.F. Bolzan. 1997. Tropical climate instability: The last glacial cycle from a Qinghai-Tibetan ice core. Science , 276: 1821-25. PDF
Back to the Current Research Projects Page