A glacier expert from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) is optimistic that climate fluctuations could actually ensure the existence of the Yulong Snow Mountain glacier in southwest China's Yunnan Province, despite the fact that it has receded by 150m in the space of 16 years from 1982 to 1998.
"It receded significantly during this time, but the glacier has already begun to show signs of advancing," Dr. He Yuanqing, an expert in glaciers and geomorphology with the CAS, said in a recent interview with Chuncheng Evening News.
According to the March 20 report, He, graduating from the University of Manchester in the UK, believes that non-simultaneous changes in temperature and levels of precipitation could create stable long-term conditions for the glacier.
Located 25 km north of Lijiang City, Yulong is the southernmost snow-capped mountain in China. And of all the snow mountains in Eurasia, its glacier is the nearest to the equator.
The mountain has 19 glaciers. He says that the long-term effects of sustained low temperatures and increased levels of precipitation lead to glacial accumulation that is greater than glacial ablation, thereby creating lower snow lines.
According to statistics, He says the Baishui No.1 Glacier was 4,500 meters above sea level in 1956 and 4,535 in 1957, indicating that the glacier had receded. However, between 1957 and 1982, the glacier advanced by about 800 meters. Between 1982 and 1998, the glacier again receded by 100 to 150 meters.
He postulates that the most important factor affecting glacial growth is the climate. Yulong Snow Mountain's snow line is approximately 4,800 meters at present. The annual average temperature in the vicinity of the snow line is 3.3-4.7ºC. Annual precipitation levels are between 2,500 and 3,000 mm.
The area above the snow line, covering only a maximum of about 18 sq km, is too fragile to withstand any major change in climate such as a global or regional rise in temperatures.
However, He points out that the area around the mountain is comparatively less polluted than other parts of the region. This is because there are fewer heavy industry factories and vegetation cover is denser.
Further, He says that according to data on the climate in northeast India and glacial changes of Yulong Snow Mountain over the last 50 years, there exist natural climate conditions conducive to the continued survival of the glacier. The southwest monsoon climate, which is indigenous to the area, operates roughly in a cycle of 11 to 12 years, thus maintaining a balance between temperature changes and precipitation levels.
(China.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, March 24, 2006)