The Tibetan Plateau and its surrounding mountains—the Himalaya on the south, the Kun Lun on the north, and the Pamir and Karakoram on the west—comprise the largest, loftiest, and youngest highland on the Earth (Figure 1). All of the world's peaks higher than 7000 m (with the lone exception of Anchomuma in the Bolivian Andes) as well as the largest concentration of alpine glaciers are found in this vast region that geographers have dubbed “the Roof of the World.”
The Himalaya-Tibet region is virtually the “water tower” of Asia: it supplies freshwater for more than one-fifth of the world's population, and it accounts for a quarter of the global sedimentation budget. Since 1985, a series of international workshops have been held to discuss the latest geoscientific research in the Himalaya-Karakoram-Tibet region. The eleventh workshop was held in Flagstaff, Ariz., from April 29 to May 1, 1996. It was the first to be held in North America. Nearly 120 people from 12 different countries attended.