Considering Earth's long geological history, the Tibetan Plateau is a never-before-seen geographical
feature (see figure). We are living during a unique time when a landmass of a million
square miles (2.6 million square kilometers)
manifests an average elevation of 15,100 feet (4,600 meters) above sea level. This very high average
elevation explains the Tibetan Plateau's appellation as the "roof of the world." Recent research
reveals that construction of this
"roof" appears to be purposely designed for humanity's benefit.
In my books Improbable Planet1 and Weathering Climate
Change,2 I wrote about the Tibetan Plateau's crucial role in initiating our
current ice age cycle. In those books I also describe the benefits we accrue from being in an
ice age cycle at a time when the Sun,
brighter than it has been during life's history, is in its most stable luminosity
Now, a research study by fourteen geologists and ecologists from China, the United Kingdom, the
United States, and Germany led by Shu-Feng Li reveals yet another benefit we garner from the
unprecedented and continuing rise of the
Tibetan Plateau.4 Before describing their research findings, let me first address
what initiated the rise of the Tibetan Plateau.
Colliding Plates Have Raised the Plateau
The high-velocity tectonic collision (20 centimeters per year) between the Indian subcontinent
tectonic plate and the Eurasian tectonic plate that began about 50 million years ago created the
Himalayan mountain range and pushed up the region
north of the Himalayas. The collision is ongoing. It has slowed down to 5 centimeters per year,
a rate that nevertheless is more than twice as fast as normally rapid plate tectonic
A Rising Plateau Changed Vegetation
Li's research team used numerical modeling to conduct 18 sensitivity experiments based on different
Tibetan topographies representing various late Paleogene (a period spanning 66 to 23 million
years ago) to early Neogene (23 to 2.6
million years ago) conditions. Their goal was to directly examine the impact of the rise of the
Tibetan Plateau on the development of vegetation observed to have occurred in eastern and
southeastern Asia throughout the past 50 million
5 They used a sophisticated atmosphere model known as HadAM3 to
reach their goal.6
The team established that the ongoing rise of the Tibetan Plateau, especially that part of the
plateau in north and northeastern Tibet, dramatically changed vegetation in eastern China, southeast
Asia, and India by altering the Asian monsoon
systems. In particular, the Tibetan Plateau rise induced a huge precipitation increase, especially
in what was the dry winter season.
Two important vegetation changes occurred. The first was a transition from deciduous
(leaf-shedding) broadleaf to evergreen (non-leaf-shedding) broadleaf vegetation throughout China,
India, and Southeast Asia. The second was a huge
increase in plant biodiversity across all of Southeast Asia.
The team's research reveals significant design implications. Without these two vegetation
changes, it would not be possible for half the world's human population of 7.8 billion people to
live in China, India, and Southeast Asia
with adequate indigenous food resources. Their analysis also provides evidence that Earth's
geological history has been exquisitely fine-tuned to make possible the existence of billions of
human beings and the purpose for which
they were created.
- Hugh Ross, Improbable
Planet (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016), 203–04.
- Hugh Ross, Weathering
Climate Change (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2020), 137–40, 145–47, 236.
- Ross, Improbable Planet, 209–12; Ross, Weathering Climate Change,
- Shu-Feng Li et al., "Orographic Evolution of Northern Tibet Shaped Vegetation and Plant
Diversity in Eastern Asia," Science Advances 7, no. 5 (January 27, 2021): id. eabc7741,
le Lunt, Rachel Flecker, and Peter D. Clift, "The Impacts of Tibetan Uplift on
Palaeoclimate Proxies," Geological Society of London Special Publication 342 (August
2010): 279–91, doi:10.1144/SP342.16;
Ran Zhang, Dabang Jiang, and Zhongshi Zhang, "Vegetation and Ocean Feedbacks on the Asian
Climate Response to the Uplift of the Tibetan Plateau," Journal of Geophysical Research:
Atmospheres 124, no. 12 (June 27, 2019): 6237–41, doi:10.1029/2019JD030503.
- Paul J. Valdes et al., "The BRIDGE HadCM3 Family of Climate Models: HadCM3@Bristol v1.0,"
Geoscientific Model Development Discussions 10 (February 2017): 3715–43, doi: