Glaciers in China have shrunk by 3,248 square kilometers in the past 40 years, according to a new analysis.
The area of glaciers has shrunk by 5.5 percent since the 1960s and the volume has dwindled by 389 cubic kilometers, about seven percent of the total 40 years ago, the report said.
The analysis is based on information in the newly established database, which compiles 24 years of field studies by the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
China has 46,298 glaciers covering 59,406 square kilometers. They have a total ice volume of 5,590 cubic kilometers, equivalent to 5,031 billion cubic meters of water.
Researchers said global warming was the main cause of glacier retreat, and explained that the melting of glaciers would raise water inflow into rivers, lakes, and wetlands in the short term, but would lead to severe water shortages in the long run as the shrinkage accelerates.
The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where about 84 percent of the country's glaciers are located, has seen a dramatic glacier retreat.
They have shrunk by 131.4 square kilometers annually, an area twice the size of downtown Beijing, in the past three decades, and a further 13,000 square kilometers will likely melt from the plateau by 2050 if no protective measures are taken.
Experts note that since the plateau supplies the headstreams of many major rivers in east, southeast, and south Asia, the decrease in water supplies will have a significant impact on the economic and social development of China as well as neighboring countries.
(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2007)