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Shrinking Glaciers in Xinjiang Sound Climate Warming Alarms
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Researchers in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region said glaciers in the region are shrinking at alarming speeds and called for artificial measures to protect them.


Wang Feiteng, an assistant researcher with the Tianshan Mountain glacier monitoring station under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said the No.1 glacier at Tianshan has lost 20 million cubic meters of ice in the last four decades, and the east and west sections of the glacier are receding by 3.5 meters and 5.9 meters respectively every year.


The glacier, situated 3,545 meters above sea level in the Tianshan Mountains, the largest glacier area in Xinjiang, separated into two parts in 1993 as the warmer climate melted some of the ice.


"Like the hard drive of a computer, glaciers record how the environment has changed. Warm weather has been the major cause of the glacier's retreat," Wang said.


China is home to about 46,000 glaciers, totaling 60,000 square kilometers and mostly distributed in Tibet and Xinjiang. Xinjiang is home to 42 percent of the total glacial areas in the country.


Aerial surveys show the total glacier acreage in Xinjiang has shrunk by 20 percent and snow lines have receded about 60 meters since 1964. CAS statistics show the internal temperature of the glaciers has risen by 10 percent in the last two decades.


"Glaciers are sometimes called 'solid reservoirs'. They are one of the major water resources in an arid region like Xinjiang," said Hu Wenkang, a researcher with the CAS.


"But melting glaciers may cause floods and landslides in some areas, and fail to provide water for rivers," Hu said, adding that prompt measures, like creating artificial rain, are needed to protect the glaciers.


Previous reports say global warming is taking a toll on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwest China, and experts say the symptoms include shrinking glaciers, frozen earth melting, grasslands turning yellow and rivers drying up.


On June 4, China issued its first national plan to address climate change. The plan said the country hopes to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 50 million tons by 2010 through the development of hydro power projects. Another 110 million tons of greenhouse gas will be cut by eliminating small thermal power projects.


Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday again urged local governments to save energy, ordering them to give higher priority to the environment and climate change-related work.


(Xinhua News Agency July 13, 2007)

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