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Chinese Researchers Assess Permafrost Thaw Settlement Risks on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Apr 23, 2021

Chinese researchers have recently completed an assessment of potential thaw settlement hazards in the permafrost regions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, known as "the roof of the world."

The results of the study provide valuable references for engineering, construction and maintenance, said Wu Tonghua, a researcher at the Northwest Institute of Eco-environment and Resources (NIEER) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. 

The study also provides insight for early warning systems and ways to adapt to permafrost thaw settlement on the plateau, Wu added. 

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is the world's highest and largest permafrost region in low and middle-latitude regions. The permafrost on the plateau is characterized by its relatively high temperature, high ice content and environmental vulnerability. 

More than 40 percent of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau permafrost faces the medium-high settlement risks. 

The warming climate exacerbates thaw settlement hazards in the permafrost regions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and threatens the stability of engineering infrastructure there. However, the risks associated with permafrost thaw settlement had rarely been assessed. 

For the new study, researchers from NIEER and other institutions used geohazard indices to assess the settlement risks in the regions. 

"Assessing the sensitivity of infrastructure to permafrost degradation is a complicated issue. Therefore, it is important to take measures related to thaw settlement with medium-high risks and establish a warning system," said Wu. 

The researchers have also identified potential settlement risks along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world's highest rail system. 

The results of the study have been published in the journal Science of the Total Environment. (Xinhua)

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Risk assessment of potential thaw settlement hazard in the permafrost regions of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

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