With the world facing an increasing threat from global warming, a Chinese scientist said Monday that the world's 20 million square kilometers of glacier will help curb a rapid rise in global temperatures.
Zhang Wenjing, a leading Chinese expert on glaciology, said glaciers, which are commonly regarded as an important source of freshwater on earth, are also "monitors" and "adjusters" of global temperatures.
Zhang is on a month-long scientific expedition to the northern and southern slopes of the Himalayas with scientists from China, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Their tasks include researching the impact of global warming on the Himalayan glaciers, which are the world's second largest glacier cluster following the Arctic Pole.
Zhang, who has been studying glacier for decades, tried to view the dwindling of glaciers in an "optimistic" way.
"To 'some extent', the heat absorbed during the glacier's melting can counteract global warming," he said.
"In other words, the world's 20 million square kilometers of glacier and vast areas of ocean will not allow the global temperature to increase too fast," said Zhang, a research fellow with the Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment with the Chinese Academy of Science
According to a World Widelife Fund report, glaciers on the Himalayas are retreating at a speed of 10 to 15 meters each year as global temperatures rise.
Zhang warned that the glaciers in the Himalayas are an important regional water resource and help maintain the region's eco-system.
"The shrinking of the glacier will have a serious impact on the region's social, economic and ecological environment," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency October 17, 2006)