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Dasoupu Ice Cap Dunde Ice Cap Guliya Ice Cap

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.

Dasuopu Update

Dunde Ice Cap

The Dunde Ice Cap (38o06'N; 96o24'E; 5325 masl) is located on the northeastern margin of the Q-T Plateau (see photo). Three ice cores to bedrock from the Dunde ice cap on the north-central Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of China provide a detailed record of Holocene and Wisconsin-Würm late glacial stage (LGS) climate changes in the subtropics. The records reveal that LGS conditions were apparently colder, wetter and dustier than Holocene conditions. The LGS part of the cores is characterized by more negative δ18O ratios, increased dust content, decreased soluble aerosol concentrations, and reduced ice crystal sizes than the Holocene part. These changes occurred rapidly ~10,000 years ago. In addition, the last 50 years appears to have been the warmest period in the Holocene (e.g., the last 10,000 years).

Selected publications:

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

Guliya Ice Cap

In 1992, an American-Chinese expedition successfully recovered a 308.6-meter ice core (see drill in photograph) from the Guliya ice cap (35o17'N, 81o29'E; summit 6710 m a.s.l.) in the far western Kunlun Shan on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China (see map). Guliya resembles a "polar" ice cap, is surrounded by vertical 30 to 40 meter ice walls (see photographs) and has internal temperatures of -15.6o, -5.9o, and -2.1oC at 10m, 200m and the base, respectively. The 308.6 m core to bedrock provides the first high resolution ice core record of the last glacial cycle as recorded in the subtropics. In addition, the core appears to contain at least several glacial-interglacial cycles. Comprehensive papers will be forthcoming in the next 6 months. The paper below discusses the late Holocene portion of the record.

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

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Last Updated: 05/07/2018