Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2018, Vol. 10 ›› Issue (3): 187-206.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2018.00187

• Articles •    

Tessellons, topography, and glaciations on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Stuart A. Harris1,2, HuiJun Jin2, RuiXia He2, SiZhong Yang2   

  1. 1. Department of Geography, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, T2N 1N4, Canada;
    2. State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soils Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China
  • Received:2018-01-18 Revised:2018-03-15 Published:2018-11-22
  • Contact: Stuart A. Harris,;HuiJun Jin,;

Abstract: The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has developed into a vast fortress-like structure that has recently presented a barrier limiting the egress of moisture-bearing air masses. Lower sea levels also affected the climate. This paper examines their effects on the current evidence for the timing of past glaciations, and the development and evolution of permafrost. There are two theories regarding glaciation on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP). Kuhle suggested that there was a major, unified ice-cap during the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), whereas major Chinese glaciologists and others have not found or verified reliable evidence for this per se. There have been limited glaciations during the last 1.1 Ma B.P. but with increasing dominance of permafrost including both primary and secondary tessellons infilled with rock, sand or loess. The East Asia Monsoon was absent in this area during the main LGM, starting at >30 ka B.P. on the plateau, with sufficient precipitation reappearing about 19 ka B.P. to produce ice-wedges. A weak Megathermal event took place between 8.5 and 6.0 ka B.P., followed by Neoglacial events exhibiting peak cold at 5.3-4.7 ka, 3.1-1.5 ka, and the Little Ice Age (LIA) after 0.7 ka. Subsequently, mean annual air temperature has increased by 4℃.

Key words: glaciation of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP), tessellons, East Asia Monsoon, Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), Neoglaciation, Asian climate change

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