Dynamic Response of Glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau to Climate Change

The Tibetan Plateau

Like Antarctica and the Arctic, the Tibetan Plateau is a key area of the globe. Its formation had a profound impact on the environmental evolution at regional and global scales and until today directly influences the habitat of billions of people. It is a determining factor for the Asian Monsoon system and provides water resources of cardinal importance for both ecosystems and local population.

Glacier Evolution and Response

Within a large consortium of Chinese and German research teams, the TU Berlin, in association with the TU Dresden and the RWTH Aachen focused on the Glaciers evolution and response in the last decades. A major part of Asia’s water supply is dependent on the hydrological cycle related to the plateau, and human impacts on it may have far reaching consequences. Moreover, the Tibetan plateau, like the Polar Regions, proves to be particularly sensitive to anthropogenic Global Change.

Atmosphere-Cryosphere Interactions

The central goal of the research was to improve our understanding of atmosphere-cryosphere interactions on the TiP by adding new data and improved methods on short- and long-term variations in energy and mass balance components due to large-scale atmospheric forcing, including variations and shifts in glacier dynamics induced by climate change. Field studies and remote sensing data analyses focused on glaciers in the Nyainqentanglha Mountains near Nam Co, where the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research (ITP) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) operates a research station.

Our Numerical Model for Surface Energy and Mass Balance Components

The field measurements carried out by the ITP was supplemented by our own field measurements and analysis of remote sensing data. Based on these data we developws and testws an optimised numerical model framework for computing surface energy and mass balance components on selected glaciers on the TiP to estimate their future dynamic response on climate change.


The project is part of the atmosphere - ecology - glaciology cluster (TiP-AEG) within the DFG Priority Programme 1372: Tibetan Plateau: Formation-Climate-Ecosystems” (TiP).

Additional information about the project and the field campaigns can be found on the homepage of the Department of Ecology of the TU Berlin.


RWTH Aachen

  • Prof. Dr. Christoph Schneider
  • Marinka Spieß, M.A.
  • Dr. Eva Huintjes

TU Berlin

  • Prof. Dr. Dieter Scherer
  • Dr. Fabien Maussion

TU Dresden

  • Prof. Dr. Manfred Buchroithner
  • Dr. Jan Kropacek
  • Dr. Tobias Bolch