Unprecedentedly high water levels in Bosten Lake are painting an unmistakable picture of the dramatic effects of climate change. Situated in northeast China’s Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region this is China’s largest, freshwater inland lake.
Predictably dry winters always used to bring low water levels to the lake but this winter the water is less than a meter below its highest recorded summer level. Figures released by the Water Control Administration of Bosten Lake show the surface of the lake is currently 1,048.40 meters above sea level compared with last summer’s record high of 1,049.36 meters.
These and other statistics are consistent with a climate change hypothesis and the effect is not limited to Bosten Lake for the waters of two other lakes in the region -- Aiding Lake and Aibi Lake -- have also been expanding rapidly since the 1990s.
In 2001, the water runoff in Xinjiang topped 100 billion cubic meters. This exceeded the average over the preceding 45 years by no less than 23 billion cubic meters. These figures were contained in the 2001 water resources communiqué made public recently by the Water Conservancy Department of Xinjiang.
“The situation is due to the climate changing from warm and arid to warm and humid in Xinjiang,” said Hu Ruji, a researcher at the Xinjiang Ecology and Geography Institute established under the auspices of the authoritative Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Hu said that signs of climate change in the region had been identified as early as 1987. The effects are particularly evident to the west of Tianshan Mountain, which is heavily influenced by the prevailing westerly winds.
This has been a change mostly for the better, not only in terms of ecological improvement as the region takes on its new green mantle but also for the boost it has brought to agricultural production. But on the downside a dramatic growth in precipitation has also brought severe flooding to Xinjiang.
Hu said that the experts are redoubling their efforts in observing, monitoring and analyzing the hydrological resources, lakes, glaciers and ecology of the region together with what can be learned of the region’s climate not only of today but also in antiquity.
They hope to generate the necessary scientific body of knowledge from which to derive effective measures to promote Xinjiang’s long-term social, economic and environmental development.
(China.org.cn translated by Zhang Tingting, January 13, 2003)