He has been the leader of several research programmes focused on environmental changes occurring in recent decades. Now he is a newly appointed honorary doctor at the Faculty of Science.
Professor Tandong Yao conducts research on glaciers and the environment on the Tibetan Plateau.
“I’m a geographer from the start. My subject is glaciology – that is, I study ice and investigate fluctuations in the amount of ice in glaciers,” Honorary Doctor Tandong Yao says.
One of the most prominent researchers in his field, he is a professor and director of the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In October of this year, the Faculty of Science at the University of Gothenburg confered an honorary doctorate on Tandong Yao.
“I didn’t know much about what the honorary doctorate title meant, but now I understand that it’s a prestigious award, and I am very pleased and honoured,” Tandong says.
Tandong Yao’s research focuses on what is called the Third Pole, or Third Pole Environment (TPE). This is a hot spot for the climate change taking place today.
The Third Pole is located on the Tibetan Plateau, which is sometimes called “the roof of the world”. The area, the highest and most extensive highlands in the world, is an average of 4,500 metres above sea level. Several important rivers – including the Yangtze, the Yellow River and the Mekong – originate on the plateau, and what happens there affects water resources for almost a third of the world’s population.
“Climate change is affecting glaciers on the plateau,” Honorary Doctor Yao says. “We researchers have registered a high degree of melting since the late nineties. Avalanches and floods follow in the aftermath of the glaciers’ melting. The infrastructure in the area has been affected. Bridges have collapsed and people have suffered. Many deaths have occurred.”
After studying and receiving a degree in China, Tandong has lived and worked in Europe and the United States. While in Paris in 2011, he met Deliang Chen, professor at the Department of Earth Sciences and leader of the Regional Climate Group at the University of Gothenburg. The group is studying climate change in Tibet, among other things.
“The contact with Tandong Yao represents an important contribution to the development of teaching and research at the Department of Earth Sciences,” says Deliang Chen, who hosted Tandong Yao during the conferment ceremony.
“We have a major research project under way concerning the Third Pole in which Professor Chen is a key player,” Yao says.