The rapid shrinking of No 1 Glacier on Tianshan Mountain in
northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region is a clear
warning of the reality of climate change.
"The shrinkage is taking place at the rate of 3.5 m a year on
the eastern part of the glacier and 5.9 m a year on the western
part," Wang Feiteng said. The assistant researcher with the
Tianshan Glacier Observation and Experiment Station under the
Chinese Academy of Science was quoted by Xinhua.
The glacier has been in a state of retreat since the 1950s.
According to Wang, the continuous shrinking split the glacier into
two independent glaciers in 1993. He said that from 1958 to 2004,
the average thickness of the glacier decreased by 12 m and the
volume of ice loss reached more than 20 million cu m.
"Our long-term observation from 1962 to 2006 showed that the
glacier's area decreased by 270,000 sq m at an accelerating rate,"
said Li Zhongqin, researcher with the Cold and Dry Areas
Environment and Engineering Research Institute under the Chinese
Academy of Sciences.
Shrinkage is not only taking place on Tianshan No 1 Glacier. All
the mountainous glaciers in the Xinjiang region have been shrinking
over the past 50 years, said Hu Wenkang, spokesman at the Xinjiang
Ecology and Geography Institute under the Chinese Academy of
Statistics show that there are 46,342 glaciers in western China,
with a total area of 59,414 sq km. They account for some 0.6
percent of China's total land area, ranking fourth in the world,
after Canada, Russia and the United States.
Experts described the glacier as the hard disk of nature,
recording a wealth of information on the environment such as
climate and water distribution.
According to experts, current glacial shrinkage is primarily due
to climate warming.
The Tianshan No 1 Glacier, located at an altitude of 3,545 m
above sea level with an average year-round temperature of 53 C
below zero, is typical of glaciers in Asia's arid and semiarid
"It is the world's nearest glacier to a city. It is only 118 km
away from Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang region, so more exposed to
temperature changes," Li said.
Environmental information shows that the rapid melting of the
glacier will not only cause serious natural disasters such as
floods and mud and rock slides, but also reduce glacial runoff.
This will gradually reduce freshwater resources at lower
The National Assessment Report on Climate Change issued by six
ministries including the Ministry of Science and Technology and
China Meteorological Administration at the end of 2006 estimated
that the area of glaciers in China's northwest region might
decrease another 17 percent by the year 2050, due to worldwide
(China Daily July 17, 2007)