yongkang xue

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David Neelin and Yongkang Xue in the Mirage News—Soil Temperatures on Tibetan Plateau Impact Global Climate

Over the past 20 years, UCLA professor Yongkang Xue has been learning how land temperature and moisture influences climate patterns. His latest paper, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society and co-authored by a global group of elite scientists, found that soil temperature variations in the Tibetan Plateau affect major climate patterns, such as the East Asian monsoon — seasonal rains that help grow food, generate power and maintain ecosystems in lands populated by more than a billion people.

Understanding the Tibetan Plateau’s influence on climate improves meteorologists’ and climatologists’ ability to predict seasonal and sub-seasonal climatic conditions. And, though the predictions are far from certain, even knowing there’s a greater likelihood of a strong monsoon or a drought is valuable, said David Neelin, a UCLA professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences and a co-author of the paper.

“If you’re a farmer deciding how much crop insurance to buy and you can use this prediction across multiple years, you’ll come out ahead in the long term,” Neelin said. “It’s the same with El Niño. It doesn’t guarantee, but it helps.”