Decoding the Climate Change Cipher
AS one of major challenges confronting the world, climate change was a selected topic discussed at the 72nd UN General Assembly held from September 19 to 25, 2017. Lately, the globe has been frequently rocked by natural disasters such as typhoons and hurricanes. In the context of global warming, how should we respond to natural disasters and extreme weather?
Examining Lake Sediments
Scientists have long been trying to trace climate change through geological records of deep-sea sediments, polar and alpine ice cores, loess, lakes, stalagmites, corals, etc.
Li Minghui, associate research fellow at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, focuses on studying lake sediments and environmental mineralogy. Since the early 1990s, she has traveled to many faraway places such as the Tibetan Plateau and the Qilian Mountains.
According to Li, the research on global climate change is vibrant and at the forefront of natural scientific research. It is also the core topic of global change research. Lake sediment records rich historical climate information in a precise manner. The mineral composition of sediments captures key clues of climate change, constituting a basic indicator in assessing the climate and environment.
With the lake sediment acting as a kind of climate proxy, scientists are able to reconstruct the sequence of environmental changes by measuring the available sediments and extracting climate and environmental information. The research will help us to understand climate change throughout history, and moreover, better predict the changes in the future.
Exploring the Plateau
The Qinghai- Tibet Plateau is home to a large quantity of lakes, whose area accounts for more than 45 percent of China’s total. In addition, the highland lakes are almost free from human activities. Most are inland saline lakes, rich in salt minerals such as halite, borax, and sodium sulfate. These salt minerals record the environmental changes in different areas of the plateau.
Thanks to its unique geographical location, the Tibetan Plateau is sensitive to climate change and thus serves as a good place in this regard. The minerals in plateau lake sediments are extremely useful in research on environment evolution.
Since Li joined the Tibetan Plateau Institute in 2005, her research findings have filled a gap in this field. For instance, she discovered monohydrocalcite ( CaCO3 · H2O), a mineral, in high- altitude areas, and a sulfate mineral Na4Ca ( So4) 3 · 2H2O in China. All these findings provide mineralogical evidence for the lake environment changes, and also enrich the basic data for salt minerals research. Li and her team also revealed
Li Minghui is an associate research fellow at the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.