Past Event

Climate Change and its Impacts on High Mountain Asia (HMA)

February 22, 2024
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Lan Cuo, Professor, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing

Moderator: Lauran Hartley, Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program; Associate Research Scholar, Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University

Global surface temperature in the first twenty years of the 21st century was 0.99 °C higher than that in 1850-1900 due to the emission of greenhouse gases by human activities. Based on the available air temperature records starting since the mid-20th century, the Tibetan Plateau has become warmer and wetter, a trend that is expected to continue through the 21st century. The Tibetan Plateau’s warming rate is twice the global average. Because of its massive area and high elevation, the plateau intrudes to the troposphere and affects the atmospheric circulations, modulating the regional and global climate and weather. The plateau and its surroundings, nicknamed “Asia’s Water Tower,” hosts the headwaters of 13 large rivers in Asia including the Yellow River, Yangtze River, Mekong River, Salween River, Irrawaddy River, Brahmaputra River, Ganges River, Indus River, Amu Darya River, Syr River, Tarim River, Ili River and Hei River—which altogether support the lives of about 2 billion people. The plateau also has the largest area of permafrost soil in the mid-latitude, the largest glacier area outside of the Arctic and the Antarctic, and delicate ecosystems that are not easy to recover once damaged. Many components of its climate system, such as water, cryosphere and vegetation, are changing as a result of the warming climate. In this presentation, Dr. Lan Cuo will discuss those changes on the plateau and its surrounding areas, drawing from her own and other researchers’ work.

Speaker's Bio: Dr. Lan Cuo is a research scientist and professor at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences. She also serves as professor at University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. She is an expert in the field of Hydrology and Climatology, known for her pioneering contributions to the understanding of surface water processes and climate change. She holds a Bachelor of Science (1993) and Master of Science (1996) from the Nanjing Institute of Meteorology. In 2005, she earned her Ph.D. from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has produced 79 research publications with over 3675 citations, reflecting the impact and significance of her contributions to the field.

This talk is part of the Weatherhead East Asian Institute's 75th anniversary policy event series "From the American Century to the Pacific Age."  Learn more about WEAI's 75th anniversary.


  • To attend this event in-person, please register HERE.
  • To attend this event online, please register HERE.

Contact Information

Julie Kwan