Rising temperatures have exacerbated shrinkage of glaciers in western China in the past 50 years, Chinese scientists have discovered.
China's glaciers are mainly found on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring districts. These areas have 46,377 glaciers.
About 82 percent of the glaciers in west China have been shrinking in the past 50 years as the temperature rose by 0.2 degrees Celsius per 10 years, according to research results published by the Cold and Dry Zone Environment and Engineering Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Scientists with the institute selected 5,000 glaciers in the region and used remote sensing and geographic information system methods to monitor their changes in the past 50 years, said Liu Shiyin, an expert with the institute, who participated in the monitoring program.
The 5,000 glaciers account for a quarter of the total acreage of glaciers in western China.
Liu said only a small number of glaciers were expanding and about 82 percent of those monitored shrank by 4.5 percent in the past 50 years.
Glaciers in the central and northwestern parts of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau shrank slowly but those in the neighboring areas were shrinking more quickly, Liu said.
Liu explained that 95 percent of the 170 glaciers on the northwestern slope of the Qilian Mountains had shrunk by 4.9 meters each year on average and only 10 glaciers expanded during the 1956-2000 period.
Almost all the glaciers on the northern sides and 69 percent of those on the southern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, are receding and the glacier acreage shrank by 10 percent on the Pamirs in the past 50 years.
Glaciers on the northern slopes of the Kunlun Mountains and the Himalayas were also shrinking, Liu said. Monitoring results showed that water flow in some rivers in northwest China's dry regions has been increasing which could be a result of melting glaciers, Liu observed.
However, Liu warned, if glaciers continued to melt quickly water sources for local rivers would reduce and that could impact seriously on the lives of local people.
(Xinhua News Agency November 16, 2006)