2013 Laureate

Qin Dahe

For research on the cryosphere and impact on the global climate
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Chinese glaciologist and climate scientist awarded the Volvo Environment Prize

The Chinese glaciologist and climate scientist Dr. Qin Dahe has been awarded this year’s Volvo Environment Prize. The award winner is a key contributor to the fifth assessment report from the UN climate panel (IPPC), whose first section, the “Physical Science Basis”, was released in September.

He attracted wide attention last year with a report on how climate change leads to more extreme weather events. Dr Qin Dahe had a leading role in last year’s special report from IPCC on extreme events and catastrophes. It was the first report to show scientifically what many had already suspected, that extreme weather and climate phenomena have become more frequent over the last 50 years.

The findings gained wide currency since they showed a clear connection between climate change and periods of extreme conditions, such as extended droughts and heat waves, but also torrential storms and rain in other regions. In its citation for this year’s Volvo Environment Prize laureate, the Award Jury calls the report “a game-changer”. In the words of the Jury, “the report demonstrated for the first time a clear link between climate change and many extreme events, an issue of immediate relevance for human well-being in many parts of the world”

Video about laureate (10:06 min)

Dr Qin is also a leading expert on cryosphere in central high Asia and its importance. The cryosphere is one of the main components of the Earth’s climate system, comprising snow, river and lake ice sea ice, glaciers, ice shelves, and frozen ground. Especially, glaciers have important impacts on water resources and ecosystems for more than two billion people in Asia.

Dr Qin has himself led several scientific expeditions to the Himalayas, and also been on expeditions to the Antarctic.

– There is no doubt that the major part of the glaciers in the Himalayas is disappearing fast. But one of the research areas we will tackle is the question of whether the Greenland ice cap is stable or not. And as well, the risks for more extreme occurrences such as drought, floods and storms, says Dr Qin.

The Himalayas

Dr Qin Dahe hopes that the scientific evidence in the fifth assessment report from the UN climate panel will be enough to lead to a breakthrough in global climate negotiations.

“There is no doubt that the major part of the glaciers in the Himalayas is disappearing fast.”

– There is an encouragingly fast development in climate models. We are now seeing much smaller discrepancies between prognoses and what we observe in the form of temperatures and carbon dioxide concentration. My hope is that the scientific evidence will prompt people all over the world to work together to reduce emissions, says Dr Qin.

Dr Qin Dahe is a glaciologist at the Cold and Arid Regions Environment and Engineering Institute in Lanzhou, China, and Co-chair of Working Group 1, IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He previously headed the China Meteorological Administration. Dr. Qin has published more than 170 scientific articles in English and 230 in Mandarin.

Jury citation for the 2013 Volvo Environment Prize laureate

The Volvo Environment prize foundation takes greate pleasure in awarding its 2013 environment prize to Dr. Qin Dahe. Throughout his very distinguished career, Dr. Qin DAHE has made outstanding contributions to the scientific understanding of the climate, both in his own country of China and at the global level. He has generated an exceptional body of research on the dynamics of glaciers and ice sheets, an important component of the climate system.

Dr. Qin’s scientific research record is remarkable. He has published 170 articles in English and another 230 in Chinese, comprising a major advance in our understanding of glacial processes. He has participated in or led many scientific expeditions to the Antarctic, Arctic, Qinghai-Tibetan plateau and Western China. His research on snow- to-glacier processes in Antarctica and in the Himalaya has been ground-breaking, and his innovative leadership in the use of ice cores in the Mount Qomolangma (Everest) region and in the mapping of Himalayan glacier resources has provided the basis for understanding the evolution of these resources and the baseline for assessing contemporary environmental change in the region.

Beyond its scientific importance, Dr. Qin’s research on the Himalayan glaciers is critical for the future welfare of over a billion people, whose water supplies ultimately depend on a reliable source of water from these high altitude glaciers. Understanding how and why the dynamics of these glaciers are changing underpins the development of adaptive responses to ensure continuing water supplies.

Building on this impressive scientific base, Dr. Qin has played a leading role the pre- eminent assessment body for climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He first became involved in the IPCC with its Third Assessment Report, published in 2001, and then assumed the prestigious leadership role of co- Chair of Working Group 1 (Science) of the Fourth Assessment Report, released in 2007. He has continued in this role in the Fifth Assessment Report, due to be released in October 2013.

One of Dr. Qin’s most important contributions to climate policy was his leadership role in the IPCC’s Special Report on Climatic Extremes, published in 2012. This thorough, well-grounded assessment was a game-changer. The report demonstrated for the first time a clear link between climate change and many extreme events, an issue of immediate relevance for human well-being in many parts of the world.

Dr. Qin has worked tirelessly to build an impressive climate science capability in China and to link it in to the international community. During his period as the head of the China Meteorological Administration, Dr. Qin was instrumental in building a policy of free and open access to scientific data for environmental studies in China. He has strongly supported the integration of China’s rapidly growing scientific capability into the international community, to the benefit of both.

Dr. Qin is a leader in international organizations and programs. He chaired the working group on glaciers of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR), served on the scientific committees of the International Geosphere- Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and of the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP), and participated in the planning and implementation of the International Polar Year (IPY).

Dr. Qin has been awarded the International Meteorological Organization Prize and the NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, USA) Outstanding Scientific Paper Award. He is an Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society.

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