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Lake Qinghai Drilling Project



Lake QinghaiChina's Qinghai Lake (3200 m altitude, 4400 m² ) on the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau is an outstanding, world-class site for obtaining high-resolution records of Quaternary climate and environmental history. This saline lake contains a sedimentary record that likely extends back at least into the Pliocene. A study of drill cores from the lake and the surrounding area are critical for understanding the climatic, ecological and tectonic evolution of this area, including the development of the East Asian monsoon system and its relationship to major global atmospheric circulation and the uplift history of the Tibetan Plateau.

(Figure ©:CESD)

The sedimentary record of the Lake Qinghai on the NE Tibetan Plateau reflects a long climatic and tectonic history for this environmentally sensitive region. It was planned to examine the sediment records of the lake, focusing on three time frames:

  1. the long, full record, which may extend through the Pliocene and into the late Miocene, thereby providing insight about the inter-relationship of tectonism and monsoon climate;
  2. the last ca. 130,000 years, an interval encompassing the last full glacial-interglacial cycle;
  3. the last 2000 years, when the influence of human activity on climate variation and environmental change becomes especially pronounced.

The main scientific objectives of the drilling program were:

  1. To obtain an improved understanding of the late Cenozoic environmental history of the Lake Qinghai region and the development of the East Asian monsoon climate;
  2. To understand the Late Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the Lake Qinghai basin and the growth of the northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau and its effects on regional climate; and
  3. To correlate Lake Qinghai environmental records with other regional and global paleoclimatic records to obtain a better understanding of the connection between regional climatic change, the development of East Asian monsoon system, prevailing Westerlies, and, ultimately, the evolution of global climate.



Asia, P.R. China, Qinghai province, northeastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau, Lake Qinghai



36° 48.67' N, 100° 8.22' E (Please scroll down to end of page for more information.)


Project Start and End
  • Begin of drilling July 22, 2005
  • End of drilling September 5, 2005


Programs and Funding


Principal Investigators
  • Zhisheng An, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Institute of Earth Environment
  • Steven M. Colman, University of Minnesota at Duluth, Large Lakes Observatory
  • Gerald H. Haug, Max-Planck-Institute Mainz for Chemistry, Department of Climate Geochemistry
  • Peter Molnar, University of Colorado at Boulder, Department of Geological Sciences, Geomicrobiology
  • Takayoshi Kawai, Association of International Research Initiatives for Environmental Studies


Cooperating Principal Investigators

No Co-PIs found for this project


Partners and Contractors



CESD, Climate Change, Eastern Asian Monsoon, Global Change, ICDP-2004/05, Lake Drilling, Lake Qinghai, P.r. China, Paleoclimatology, QINGHAI, Tibetan Plateau


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