Glaciers Retain Glazed Looks

Thanks to protective measures taken by the government, the two most famous low-latitude glaciers in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces in the southwest still retain their natural landscapes and are melting at a relatively slower rate, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Latest statistics released by the environment supervision departments show that thanks to improvement of natural and manual ecological systems in the areas, the Hailuogou Glacier in Sichuan shrank only 1 km over the past decade, a comparatively slow rate than many major glaciers around the world.

The Mingyong Glacier on Mount Meili in Yunnan Province has reported no growth on its moving rate in recent years.

Glaciers are always sensitive to changes in global climate. With the world’s climate warming up, almost all glaciers located in low latitude areas are facing problems of comprehensive melting.

The melting of glaciers can result in floods, farmlands being inundated with water and mud-rock slides. Moreover, the drying up of ice lakes will lead to shrinking of rivers, causing severe drought.

In addition, the disappearance of glacier landscapes is equivalent to the destruction of natural resources, which help scientific research and fuel the tourism industry.

Being the country’s largest glacier with an integrated surrounding of natural resources and cultural relics, the Hailuogou Glacier is located 29.6 degrees north latitude on Mount Minya Konka in Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan. The glacier’s moving speed has been at 180 meters per year.

Zhang Wenjing, a scientist, said that due to the series of protective measures taken by the government, human activities in the area have not caused much damage to the glacier.

The Hailuogou Glacier area has now been listed as a state-level natural scenic site. While developing tourism resources in the area, the central and local governments have banned tree-felling, part of the efforts to protect the ecological environment in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River.

“Related departments have decided to build a cableway to cross the glacier,” Zhang said, explaining that the cableway will provide tourists a virgin and panoramic view while traveling over the glacier.

Zhao Xitao, with the Geographic Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, began a scientific research project on geographic changes in the northwestern part of Yunnan in 1996, Xinhua said.

Zhao’s research includes the Mingyong Glacier located at the eastern slope of the Kagbo Peak, the highest peak on Mount Meili.

Mingyong is a glacier at the lowest elevation - 2,700 meters - and lowest latitude - 28.5 degrees north, in the country, he said.

The glacier is 11.7 km long and covers an area of 13 square km, looking like a zigzag ice dragon entwined on the mountain.

With characteristics of a typical oceanic climate - high surface temperature and fast-moving speed, the glacier has diversified climates from top to bottom, from frigid zone, temperate zone to a semi-tropical zone as well as various vegetation belts: fern, tundra, meadow, fir, taiga, and broadleaf forest.

According to the expert, the Mingyong Glacier is moving up at a speed of 530 meters every year.

While the Mingyong Glacier will not only provide valuable insight into the study of geology in the area, the unique glacier landscape and fresh mountain environment at the bottom attract flocks of domestic and overseas visitors, said the expert.

How to protect the glacier and the snow-capped Mount Meili, 6,740 meters high, has also become one of the major tasks for the central government and the Yunan provincial government.

( 02/20/2001)

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