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The Tibetan Plateau (, also known as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in India, is a vast elevated
plateau In geology Geology (from the Ancient Greek γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is an Earth science concerned with the solid Earth, the rock (geology), rocks of which it is composed, and the proces ...

plateau
in
Central Asia Central Asia is a region in which stretches from the in the west to and in the east, and from and in the south to in the north, including the former of , , , , and . It is also colloquially referred to as "the stans" as the countries all ...

Central Asia
,
South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

South Asia
and
East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere, Eastern and Northern Hemisphere, Northern Hemisphere of the Earth, Hemispheres. It shares the ...

East Asia
, covering most of the
Tibet Autonomous Region The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) or Xizang Autonomous Region, called Tibet or Xizang for short, is a province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' pr ...
, most of
Qinghai Qinghai (; alternately romanized as Tsinghai, Ch'inghai), also known Kokonor, is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division Administrative division, administrative unitArticle 3(1). , country subdi ...

Qinghai
, Northwestern
Yunnan Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Kun ...

Yunnan
, Western half of
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China occupying most of the Sichuan Basin and the easternmost part of the Tibetan Plateau between ...

Sichuan
, Southern
Gansu Gansu (, ; Chinese postal romanization, alternately romanized as Kansu) is a landlocked provinces of China, province in Northwest China. Its capital and largest city is Lanzhou, in the southeast part of the province. The seventh-largest administ ...

Gansu
provinces in
Western China 200px, Western China Western China (, or rarely ) is the west 250px, A compass rose with west highlighted in black West is one of the four cardinal directions or points of the compass. It is the opposite direction from east, and is the direct ...
, southern
Xinjiang Xinjiang (),, SASM/GNC: ''Xinjang''; zh, c=, p=Xīnjiāng; alternately romanized as Sinkiang officially the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (XUAR) and formerly romanized as Sinkiang, is a landlocked autonomous region An autonomous ...

Xinjiang
, the Indian regions of
Ladakh Ladakh () is a region administered by as a , and constitutes a part of the larger region, which has been the subject of dispute between India, , and since 1947. (subscription required) Quote: "Jammu and Kashmir, state of India, located in ...

Ladakh
and
Lahaul and Spiti The Lahaul and Spiti district in the India India (Hindi: ), officially the Republic of India (Hindi: ), is a country in South Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, second-most populous country, the List of cou ...
(
Himachal Pradesh Himachal Pradesh (; ; "Province of the Snow-laden Mountains") is a States and union territories of India, state in the northern part of India. Situated in the Western Himalayas, it is one of the eleven Indian Himalayan Region, mountain states ...

Himachal Pradesh
) as well as
Gilgit-Baltistan Gilgit-Baltistan (; , : རྒྱལ་སྐྱིད་ སྦལྟི་ཡུལ།), formerly known as the Northern Areas, is a region administered by as an administrative territory, and constitutes the northern portion of the larger ...

Gilgit-Baltistan
in
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia South Asia is the southern region of Asia, which is defined in both geography, geographical and culture, e ...

Pakistan
,
Bhutan Bhutan (; dz, འབྲུག་ཡུལ་, Druk Yul, ), officially known as the Kingdom of Bhutan ( dz, འབྲུག་རྒྱལ་ཁབ་, Druk Gyal Khap), is a landlocked country in the Eastern Himalayas. It is bordered by Ch ...

Bhutan
, northern
Nepal Nepal (; ne, :ne:नेपाल, नेपाल ), officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal ( ne, सङ्घीय लोकतान्त्रिक गणतन्त्र नेपाल ), is a landlocked country in S ...

Nepal
, eastern
Tajikistan ) , image_map = Tajikistan (orthographic projection).svg , map_caption = , capital = , coordinates = , largest_city = capital , official_languages = (state) (interethn ...

Tajikistan
and southern
Kyrgyzstan russian: Киргизская Республика, Kirgizskaya Respublika , image_flag = Flag of Kyrgyzstan.svg , image_coat = Emblem of Kyrgyzstan.svg , symbol_type = Emblem , motto = " ...

Kyrgyzstan
. It stretches approximately north to south and east to west. It is the world's highest and largest plateau above sea level, with an area of (about five times the size of
Metropolitan France Metropolitan France (french: France métropolitaine or ''la Métropole''), also known as European France, is the area of France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a country primarily l ...

Metropolitan France
). With an average elevation exceeding and being surrounded by imposing mountain ranges that harbor the world's two highest summits,
Mount Everest Mount Everest (Chinese Chinese can refer to: * Something related to China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's m ...

Mount Everest
and
K2
K2
, the Tibetan Plateau is often referred to as "the
Roof of the World of Central Asia from the Caucasus in the northwest, to Mongolia in the northeast. The Roof of the World or Top of the World is a metaphoric description of the high region in the world, also known as High Asia. The term usually refers to the mounta ...

Roof of the World
". The Tibetan Plateau contains the
headwaters The headwaters of a or is the farthest place in that river or stream from its or downstream with another river, as measured along the course of the river. It is also known as a river's source. Definition The (USGS) states that a river ...
of the
drainage basin A drainage basin is any area of land where precipitation collects and drains off into a common outlet, such as into a river, bay, or other body of water. The drainage basin includes all the surface water from surface runoff, rain runoff, snowm ...

drainage basin
s of most of the streams in surrounding regions. Its tens of thousands of
glacier A glacier (; ) is a persistent body of dense that is constantly moving under its own weight. A glacier forms where the accumulation of exceeds its over many years, often . Glaciers slowly deform and flow under stresses induced by their wei ...

glacier
s and other geographical and ecological features serve as a "water tower" storing water and maintaining
flow Flow may refer to: Science and technology * Flow (fluid) or fluid dynamics, the motion of a gas or liquid * Flow (geomorphology), a type of mass wasting or slope movement in geomorphology * Flow (mathematics), a group action of the real numbers on ...

flow
. It is sometimes termed the
Third Pole The Third Pole is a central Asian high mountain region. The "Hindu Kush - Karakoram - Himalayan" (HKKH) region spreads over an area of more than 4.2 million square kilometers (1.7 million square miles) in ten countries, i.e. Afghanistan Afgha ...
because its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions. The impact of
global warming Contemporary climate change includes both the global warming caused by humans, and its impacts on Earth's weather patterns. There have been , but the current changes are more rapid than any known events in Earth's history. The main cau ...

global warming
on the Tibetan Plateau is of intense scientific interest.


Description

The Tibetan Plateau is surrounded by the massive mountain ranges of
high-mountain Asia High-mountain Asia is a high geographic region that includes the Asian mountain ranges surrounding the Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (), also known in China as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan P ...
. The plateau is bordered to the south by the
inner Himalayan range
inner Himalayan range
, to the north by the
Kunlun Mountains The Kunlun Mountains ( zh, s=昆仑山, t=崑崙山, p=Kūnlún Shān, ; ug, كۇئېنلۇن تاغ تىزمىسى) constitute one of the longest mountain chain A mountain chain is a row of high mountain summits, a linear sequence of interconn ...

Kunlun Mountains
, which separate it from the
Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about and one of the largest basins in Northwest China.Chen, Yaning, et al. "Regional climate change and its effects on river runoff in the Tarim Basin, China." Hydro ...
, and to the northeast by the
Qilian Mountains The Qilian Mountains (, also romanized as Tsilien; Mongghul: Chileb), together with the Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization sy ...
, which separate the plateau from the
Hexi Corridor The Hexi Corridor (, Xiao'erjing: حْسِ ظِوْلاْ, IPA: /xɤ˧˥ɕi˥ tsoʊ˨˩˦lɑŋ˧˥/), also known as the Gansu Corridor, is an important historical region located in the modern Gansu province of China China, officially the ...

Hexi Corridor
and
Gobi Desert The Gobi Desert () is a large desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al ...

Gobi Desert
. To the east and southeast the plateau gives way to the forested gorge and ridge geography of the mountainous headwaters of the
Salween . , name_native_lang = , name_other = Burmese language, Burmese: , ''Thanlwin'' ( th, แม่น้ำสาละวิน, ''Mae Nam Salawin'' ( , name_etymology = , image = Sunset Salween River.jpg , image_si ...

Salween
,
Mekong The Mekong or Mekong River is a trans-boundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these river ...

Mekong
, and
Yangtze The Yangtze or Yangzi ( or ) is the longest , the in the world and the longest in the world to flow entirely within one country. It rises at Jari Hill in the (Tibetan Plateau) and flows in a generally easterly direction to the . It is ...
rivers in northwest
Yunnan Yunnan () is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China, the southwest of the People's Republic of China. The province spans approximately and has a population of 48.3 million (as of 2018). The capital of the province is Kun ...

Yunnan
and western
Sichuan Sichuan (; , ; Postal romanization, alternatively romanized as Szechuan or Szechwan) is a landlocked Provinces of China, province in Southwest China occupying most of the Sichuan Basin and the easternmost part of the Tibetan Plateau between ...

Sichuan
(the
Hengduan Mountains The Hengduan Mountains () are a group of mountain ranges in southwest China, southwest China that connect the southeast portions of the Tibetan Plateau with the Yunnan–Guizhou Plateau. The Hengduan Mountains are primarily large north-south mo ...
). In the west, the curve of the rugged
Karakoram The Karakoram is a mountain range spanning the borders of China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in . It is the world's , with a of more than 1.4 billion. China spans five geographical and ...

Karakoram
range of northern
Kashmir Kashmir, ks, کٔشیٖر, kaśīr () is the northernmost geographical region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term "Kashmir" denoted only the Kashmir Valley The Kashmir Valley, also known as the ''Vale o ...

Kashmir
embraces the plateau. The
Indus River The Indus ( ) is a transboundary river A transboundary river is a river that crosses at least one political border, either a border within a nation or an international boundary. Bangladesh has the highest number of these rivers, including t ...

Indus River
originates in the western Tibetan Plateau in the vicinity of
Lake Manasarovar Lake Manasarovar (Sanskrit: मानसरोवर), also called mTsho Mapham () or mTsho Ma-dros-pa locally, is a high altitude freshwater lake fed by the Kailash Glaciers near Mount Kailash in Burang County, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous R ...

Lake Manasarovar
. The Tibetan Plateau is bounded in the north by a broad escarpment where the altitude drops from around to over a horizontal distance of less than . Along the escarpment is a range of mountains. In the west, the
Kunlun Mountains The Kunlun Mountains ( zh, s=昆仑山, t=崑崙山, p=Kūnlún Shān, ; ug, كۇئېنلۇن تاغ تىزمىسى) constitute one of the longest mountain chain A mountain chain is a row of high mountain summits, a linear sequence of interconn ...

Kunlun Mountains
separate the plateau from the Tarim Basin. About halfway across the Tarim the bounding range becomes the
Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese, Standard Mandarin Chinese in mainland China, Taiwan (ROC), and Singapore. It ...
and the Kunluns, by convention, continue somewhat to the south. In the 'V' formed by this split is the western part of the
Qaidam Basin The Qaidam, Tsaidam, or Chaidamu Basin is a hyperarid basin that occupies a large part of Haixi Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of cou ...
. The Altyn-Tagh ends near the Dangjin pass on the
Dunhuang Dunhuang () is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a county-level administrative division of the Peop ...
Golmud Golmud, also known by various other romanizations, is a county-level city A county-level municipality (), county-level city or county city, formerly known as prefecture-controlled city (1949–1970: ; 1970–1983: ), is a count ...

Golmud
road. To the west are short ranges called the Danghe, Yema, Shule, and Tulai Nanshans. The easternmost range is the Qilian Mountains. The line of mountains continues east of the plateau as the
Qinling The Qinling () or Qin Mountains, formerly known as the Nanshan ("Southern Mountains"), are a major east-west mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountai ...
, which separates the
Ordos Plateau is colored blue. The yellow area is Inner Mongolia and Ningxia. The Ordos Plateau, also known as the Ordos Basin or simply the Ordos, is a highland sedimentary basin in North China, northwest China with an elevation of , and consisting mostly of ...
from Sichuan. North of the mountains runs the Gansu or
Hexi Corridor The Hexi Corridor (, Xiao'erjing: حْسِ ظِوْلاْ, IPA: /xɤ˧˥ɕi˥ tsoʊ˨˩˦lɑŋ˧˥/), also known as the Gansu Corridor, is an important historical region located in the modern Gansu province of China China, officially the ...

Hexi Corridor
which was the main silk-road route from
China proper China proper, Inner China or the Eighteen Provinces was a term used by Western writers on the Manchu people, Manchu-led Qing dynasty to express a distinction between the core and frontier regions of China. There is no fixed extent for China pr ...

China proper
to the West. The plateau is a high-altitude arid
steppe File:Steppe of western Kazakhstan in the early spring.jpg, Steppe in Kazakhstan In physical geography, a steppe () is an ecoregion characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes. Steppe biomes may ...

steppe
interspersed with mountain ranges and large
brackish Brackish water, also sometimes termed brack water, is water occurring in a natural environment having more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater. It may result from mixing seawater (salt water) with fresh water together, as in estu ...
lakes. Annual precipitation ranges from and falls mainly as hail. The southern and eastern edges of the steppe have grasslands that can sustainably support populations of nomadic herdsmen, although frost occurs for six months of the year.
Permafrost Permafrost is ground that continuously remains below 0 °C (32 °F) for two or more years, located on land or under the ocean The ocean (also the sea The sea, connected as the world ocean or simply the ocean The oc ...

Permafrost
occurs over extensive parts of the plateau. Proceeding to the north and northwest, the plateau becomes progressively higher, colder, and drier, until reaching the remote
Changtang The Changtang (alternatively spelled Changthang or Qangtang) is a part of the high altitude Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (), also known in China as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in In ...
region in the northwestern part of the plateau. Here the average altitude exceeds and winter temperatures can drop to . As a result of this extremely inhospitable environment, the Changthang region (together with the adjoining Kekexili region) is the least populous region in Asia and the third least populous area in the world after Antarctica and northern Greenland.


Geology and geological history

The geological history of the Tibetan Plateau is closely related to that of the Himalayas. The Himalayas belong to the
Alpine Orogeny The Alpine orogeny or Alpide orogeny is an orogenic An orogeny is an event that leads to both structural Deformation (physics), deformation and compositional differentiation of the Earth's lithosphere (Crust (geology), crust and uppermost Mant ...
and are therefore among the younger mountain ranges on the planet, consisting mostly of uplifted
sedimentary Sedimentary rocks are types of rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at Earth#Surface, Earth's surface, followed by cementation (geology), cementation. Sedimentatio ...

sedimentary
and
metamorphic rock , a type of metamorphic rock Metamorphic rocks arise from the transformation of existing rock (geology), rock to new types of rock, in a process called metamorphism upright=1.35, Schematic representation of a metamorphic reaction. Abbreviat ...

metamorphic rock
. Their formation is a result of a
continental collision Continental collision is a phenomenon A phenomenon (; plural phenomena) is an observable fact or event. The term came into its modern philosophical usage through Immanuel Kant Immanuel Kant (, ; ; 22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) ...

continental collision
or
orogeny Orogeny is the primary mechanism by which mountains are formed on continents. An orogeny is an event that takes place at a convergent plate margin when plate motion compresses the margin. This leads to both structural deformation Deformation ...
along the
convergent boundary A convergent boundary (also known as a destructive boundary) is an area on Earth where two or more Plate tectonics, lithospheric plates collide. One plate eventually slides beneath the other, a process known as subduction. The subduction zone can ...
between the
Indo-Australian Plate The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of ...
and the
Eurasian Plate The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around thick and consist ...
. The collision began in the
Upper Cretaceous The Late Cretaceous (100.5–66 Ma) is the younger of two epochs into which the Cretaceous geological period is divided in the geologic time scale The geologic time scale (GTS) is a system of chronological dating that classifies Geology, geol ...

Upper Cretaceous
period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving
Indo-Australian Plate The Indo-Australian Plate is a major tectonic plate that includes the continent of Australia and surrounding ocean The ocean (also the sea or the world ocean) is the body of salt water which covers approximately 71% of the surface of ...
, moving at about per year, collided with the
Eurasian Plate The Eurasian Plate is a tectonic plate This is a list of tectonic plates on Earth's surface. Tectonic plates are pieces of Earth's crust and uppermost mantle, together referred to as the lithosphere. The plates are around thick and consist ...
. About 50 million years ago, this fast-moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the
Tethys Ocean The Tethys Ocean ( el, Τηθύς ''Tēthús''), also called the Tethys Sea or the Neo-Tethys, was an ocean during much of the Era located between the ancient continents of and , before the opening of the and oceans during the Period. Etym ...
, the existence of which has been determined by
sedimentary rock Sedimentary rocks are types of rock (geology), rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic matter, organic particles at Earth#Surface, Earth's surface, followed by cementation (geology), cementation. Sedimentatio ...

sedimentary rock
s settled on the ocean floor, and the
volcano A volcano is a rupture in the of a , such as , that allows hot , , and to escape from a below the surface. On Earth, volcanoes are most often found where are or , and most are found underwater. For example, a , such as the , has volcanoe ...

volcano
es that fringed its edges. Since these sediments were light, they crumpled into mountain ranges rather than sinking to the floor. The Indo-Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan Plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards; the plateau is still
rising Rising may refer to: * Rising, a stage in baking - see Proofing (baking technique) *Elevation * Short for Uprising, a rebellion Film and TV * Rising (Stargate Atlantis), "Rising" (''Stargate Atlantis''), the series premiere of the science fiction t ...
at a rate of approximately per year. Much of the Tibetan Plateau is of relatively low relief. The cause of this is debated among geologists. Some argue that the Tibetan Plateau is an uplifted
peneplain In geomorphology and geology, a peneplain is a Terrain, low-relief plain formed by protracted erosion. This is the definition in the broadest of terms, albeit with frequency the usage of peneplain is meant to imply the representation of a near-fin ...

peneplain
formed at low altitude, while others argue that the low relief stems from
erosion In , erosion is the action of surface processes (such as or ) that removes , , or dissolved material from one location on the , and then it to another location. Erosion is distinct from which involves no movement. Removal of rock or soil as ...

erosion
and
infillIn urban planning Urban planning, also known as regional planning, town planning, city planning, or rural planning, is a technical and political process that is focused on the development and design of land use and the built environment, includ ...
of topographic depressions that occurred at already high elevations. The current tectonics of the plateau is much debated. The two end-member models are the block model, in which the crust of the plateau is formed of several blocks with little internal deformation separated by major
strike-slip fault In geology Geology (from the γῆ, ''gē'' ("earth") and -λoγία, ''-logia'', ("study of", "discourse")) is a branch of concerned with both the liquid and , the of which it is composed, and the processes by which they change over t ...

strike-slip fault
s. In the alternative continuum model, the plateau is affected by distributed deformation resulting from flow within the crust.


Environment

The Tibetan Plateau supports a variety of ecosystems, most of them classified as
montane Montane ecosystems are found on the slopes of mountain A mountain is an elevated portion of the Earth's crust, generally with steep sides that show significant exposed bedrock. A mountain differs from a plateau in having a limited summit area ...

montane
grasslands. While parts of the plateau feature an
alpine tundra Alpine tundra is a type of natural region A natural region (landscape unit) is a basic geographic unit. Usually, it is a region In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of scienc ...

alpine tundra
-like environment, other areas feature monsoon-influenced shrublands and forests.
Species diversity Species diversity is the number of different species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the ...
is generally reduced on the plateau due to the elevation and low precipitation. The Tibetan Plateau hosts the
Tibetan wolf
Tibetan wolf
, and species of
snow leopard The snow leopard (''Panthera uncia''), also known as the ounce, is a felid Felidae () is a Family (biology), family of mammals in the Order (biology), order Carnivora, colloquially referred to as cats, and constitutes a clade. A member of t ...

snow leopard
,
wild yak The wild yak (''Bos mutus'') is a large, wild cattle Cattle, or cows (female) and bulls (male), are the most common type of large domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms ...
, wild donkey, cranes, vultures, hawks, geese, snakes, and
water buffalo The water buffalo (''Bubalus bubalis''), also called the domestic water buffalo or Asian water buffalo, is a large bovid The Bovidae comprise the biological family Family ( la, familia, plural ') is one of the eight major hierarchical tax ...

water buffalo
. One notable animal is the high-altitude jumping spider, that can live at elevations of over .
Ecoregion An ecoregion (ecological region) or ecozone (ecological zone) is an ecologically Ecology (from el, οἶκος, "house" and el, -λογία, label=none, "study of") is the study of the relationships between living organisms, including hu ...
s found on the Tibetan Plateau, as defined by the
World Wide Fund for Nature The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is an international non-governmental organization An international non-governmental organization (INGO) is an organization which is independent of government involvement and extends the concept of a non-go ...
, are as follows: * The Pamir alpine desert and tundra covers the western end of the Tibetan Plateau where it transitions to the
Pamir Mountains The Pamir Mountains are a mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similarity in form, structure, and alignmen ...

Pamir Mountains
* The North Tibetan Plateau-Kunlun Mountains alpine desert covers the northwestern limits of the Tibetan Plateau along the
Kunlun Mountains The Kunlun Mountains ( zh, s=昆仑山, t=崑崙山, p=Kūnlún Shān, ; ug, كۇئېنلۇن تاغ تىزمىسى) constitute one of the longest mountain chain A mountain chain is a row of high mountain summits, a linear sequence of interconn ...

Kunlun Mountains
* The
Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe
Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe
covers the westernmost parts of the Tibetan Plateau and
Ladakh Ladakh () is a region administered by as a , and constitutes a part of the larger region, which has been the subject of dispute between India, , and since 1947. (subscription required) Quote: "Jammu and Kashmir, state of India, located in ...

Ladakh
* The Northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows on the edges mountains bordering the extreme west of the Tibetan Plateau * The Central Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe covers most of the central portions of the Tibetan Plateau and the eastern
Changtang The Changtang (alternatively spelled Changthang or Qangtang) is a part of the high altitude Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (), also known in China as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in In ...
* The
Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows The Western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows is a montane grasslands and shrublands ecoregion of Nepal, India, and Tibet, which lies between the tree line and snow line in the western portion of the Himalaya Range. Setting The Western Himalayan ...
covers the southwestern plateau in the Garuda Valley region * The Qaidam Basin semi-desert located in the
Qaidam Basin The Qaidam, Tsaidam, or Chaidamu Basin is a hyperarid basin that occupies a large part of Haixi Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of cou ...
on the northern Tibetan Plateau * The Qilian Mountains subalpine meadows covering the
Qilian Mountains The Qilian Mountains (, also romanized as Tsilien; Mongghul: Chileb), together with the Altyn-Tagh Altyn-Tagh (also Altun Mountains, Altun Shan; , Pinyin ''Hanyu Pinyin'' (), often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization sy ...
in the northernmost portions of the plateau * The Qilian Mountains conifer forests covering parts of the mountain ranges in the northeastern Tibetan Plateau * The Tibetan Plateau alpine shrub and meadows covering a swath of the central and northeastern Tibetan Plateau * The Yarlung Tsangpo arid steppe in the
Yarlung Tsangpo RiverYarlung can refer to: *Yarlung Kingdom, see also: Tibetan empire The Tibetan Empire (, ) existed from the 7th to 9th centuries AD when Tibet was unified as a large and powerful empire, and ruled an area considerably larger than the Tibetan Plate ...
Valley, where most of the permanent human population on the Tibetan Plateau lives * The Eastern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows cover the southern Tibetan Plateau on the north side of the
Himalayas The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It ar ...

Himalayas
* The
Southeast Tibet shrub and meadows The Southeast Tibet shrub and meadows are a montane grassland ecoregion that cover the southeast and eastern parts of the Tibetan Plateau in China. The meadows in this region of Tibet are in the path of the monsoon rains and are wetter than the oth ...
cover the southeastern and eastern parts of the plateau and are generally rainier than the other high-altitude Tibetan Plateau regions * The Northeastern Himalayan subalpine conifer forests reach up mountain valleys in the southern plateau and contain some of the highest altitude forests in the world * The Nujiang Langcang Gorge alpine conifer and mixed forests cover the mountain valleys that reach into the southeastern Tibetan Plateau * The Hengduan Mountains subalpine conifer forests cover the southeasternmost mountain valleys on the plateau * The Qionglai-Minshan conifer forests cover the eastern edges of the plateau and are the densest forests to be found anywhere on the Tibetan Plateau


Human history

Nomads on the Tibetan Plateau and in the
Himalayas The Himalayas, or Himalaya (; Sanskrit Sanskrit (; attributively , ; nominalization, nominally , , ) is a classical language of South Asia that belongs to the Indo-Aryan languages, Indo-Aryan branch of the Indo-European languages. It ar ...

Himalayas
are the remainders of nomadic practices historically once widespread in Asia and Africa. Pastoral nomads constitute about 40% of the ethnic Tibetan people, Tibetan population. The presence of nomadic peoples on the plateau is predicated on their adaptation to survival on the world's grassland by raising livestock rather than crops, which are unsuitable to the terrain. Archaeological evidence suggests that the earliest human occupation of the plateau occurred between 30,000 and 40,000 years ago. Since colonization of the Tibetan Plateau, Tibetan culture has adapted and flourished in the western, southern, and eastern regions of the plateau. The northern portion, the
Changtang The Changtang (alternatively spelled Changthang or Qangtang) is a part of the high altitude Tibetan Plateau The Tibetan Plateau (), also known in China as the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau or the Qing–Zang Plateau () or as the Himalayan Plateau in In ...
, is generally too high and cold to support permanent population. One of the most notable civilizations to have developed on the Tibetan Plateau is the Tibetan Empire from the 7th century to the 9th century AD.


Impact on other regions


Role in monsoons

Monsoons are caused by the different amplitudes of surface temperature seasonal cycles between land and oceans. This differential warming occurs because heating rates differ between land and water. Ocean heating is distributed vertically through a "mixed layer" that may be 50 meters deep through the action of wind and buoyancy-generated turbulence, whereas the land surface conducts heat slowly, with the seasonal signal penetrating only a meter or so. Additionally, the specific heat capacity of liquid water is significantly greater than that of most materials that make up land. Together, these factors mean that the heat capacity of the layer participating in the seasonal cycle is much larger over the oceans than over land, with the consequence that the land warms and cools faster than the ocean. In turn, air over the land warms faster and reaches a higher temperature than does air over the ocean.Oracle Thinkquest Education Foundation
monsoons: causes of monsoons.
Retrieved on 22 May 2008.
The warmer air over land tends to rise, creating an area of low pressure. The pressure anomaly then causes a steady wind to blow toward the land, which brings the moist air over the ocean surface with it. Rainfall is then increased by the presence of the moist ocean air. The rainfall is stimulated by a variety of mechanisms, such as low-level air being lifted upwards by mountains, surface heating, convergence at the surface, divergence aloft, or from storm-produced outflows near the surface. When such lifting occurs, the air cools due to expansion in lower pressure, which in turn produces condensation and precipitation. In winter, the land cools off quickly, but the ocean maintains the heat longer. The hot air over the ocean rises, creating a low-pressure area and a breeze from land to ocean while a large area of drying high pressure is formed over the land, increased by wintertime cooling. Monsoons are similar to sea breezes, sea and land breezes, a term usually referring to the localized, diurnal cycle of circulation near coastlines everywhere, but they are much larger in scale, stronger and seasonal. The seasonal monsoon wind shift and weather associated with the heating and cooling of the Tibetan plateau is the strongest such monsoon on Earth.


Glaciology: the Ice Age and at present

Today, Tibet is an important heating surface of the atmosphere. However, during the Last Glacial Maximum, an approximately ice sheet covered the plateau. See chapter entitled: "Reconstruction of an approximately complete Quaternary Tibetan Inland Glaciation between the Mt. Everest and Cho Oyu Massifs and the Aksai Chin. – A new glaciogeomorphological southeast-northwest diagonal profile through Tibet and its consequences for the glacial isostasy and Ice Age cycle". Due to its great extent, this glaciation in the subtropics was an important element of radiative forcing. With a much lower latitude, the ice in Tibet reflected at least four times more radiation energy per unit area into space than ice at higher latitudes. Thus, while the modern plateau heats the overlying atmosphere, during the Last Ice Age it helped to cool it. This cooling had multiple effects on regional climate. Without the thermal low pressure caused by the heating, there was no monsoon over the Indian subcontinent. This lack of monsoon caused pluvial, extensive rainfall over the Sahara, expansion of the Thar Desert, more dust deposited into the Arabian Sea, and a lowering of the life zone, biotic life zones on the Indian subcontinent. Animals responded to this shift in climate, with the Javan rusa migrating into India. In addition, the glaciers in Tibet created glacial lake, meltwater lakes in the
Qaidam Basin The Qaidam, Tsaidam, or Chaidamu Basin is a hyperarid basin that occupies a large part of Haixi Prefecture in Qinghai Province, China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of cou ...
, the
Tarim Basin The Tarim Basin is an endorheic basin in Northwest China occupying an area of about and one of the largest basins in Northwest China.Chen, Yaning, et al. "Regional climate change and its effects on river runoff in the Tarim Basin, China." Hydro ...
, and the
Gobi Desert The Gobi Desert () is a large desert upright=1.5, alt=see caption, Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali ("Empty quarter") in the United Arab Emirates">Rub'_al_Khali.html" ;"title="Sand dunes in the Rub' al Khali">Sand dunes in the Rub' al ...

Gobi Desert
, despite the strong evaporation caused by the low latitude. Rock flour, Silt and clay from the glaciers accumulated in these lakes; when the lakes dried at the end of the ice age, the silt and clay were aeolian processes, blown by the katabatic wind, downslope wind off the Plateau. These airborne fine grains produced the enormous amount of loess in the Chinese lowlands.


Effects of climate change

The Tibetan Plateau contains the world's third-largest store of ice. Qin Dahe, the former head of the China Meteorological Administration, issued the following assessment in 2009:


See also

* Annexation of Tibet by the People's Republic of China * Bayan Har block * Central Tibetan Administration * Geography of Tibet * Geology of the Himalaya * Tibet (1912–1951) * Tibetan culture * Tibetan sovereignty debate * Tibetan diaspora


References


Citations


Sources

* *


External links


ON THINNER ICE 如履薄冰 (by GRIP, Asia Society and MediaStorm)

The Third Pole: Understanding Asia's Water Crisis



Long Rivers and Distant Sources

"Roof of the Earth" Offers Clues About How Our Planet Was Shaped

Plateau Perspectives (international NGO)


* * [https://web.archive.org/web/20070510185558/http://www.plateauperspectives.org/tibetan_PAs.htm Protected areas of the Tibetan Plateau region] *
Photos of Tibetan nomads


* [https://web.archive.org/web/20150201221817/http://www.thirdpolecast.com/ Contemporary lifestyle and language learning center from Tibet lhasa, the official language of Tibetan. podcast.]
Tibetan History
The true history of any region cannot be fully understood without knowing the basic characteristics of a region and of its inhabitants {{Authority control Tibetan Plateau, Plateaus of Asia Plateaus of China Plateaus of India Landforms of Tibet Landforms of Jammu and Kashmir Landforms of Ladakh Landforms of Central Asia Landforms of East Asia Landforms of South Asia Regions of Asia Montane ecology Physiographic provinces Geology of the Himalaya