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Scientists Discuss Climate in Delta Region

Chinese scientists' predictions of the impact of global warming and the greenhouse effect may not be as catastrophic as German film director Ronald Emmerich's, but they are still serious.

Emmerich recently released the film The Day After Tomorrow, picturing the worldwide catastrophe and disaster which would ensue, including multiple hurricanes, tornadoes, tidal waves, floods and the beginning of the next Ice Age.


"It is a movie intended to be a box office hit. But we, as scientists, have to be responsible for every word as it is really important," said Ke Xiaofeng, an expert at the Shanghai Climate Center.


Ke delivered a keynote speech at the first Yangtze Meteorology Forum held in Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang Province, on Wednesday, with participants from Shanghai Municipality, and Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces.


"With the increasing industrialization and urbanization since the 1980s, global warming tendency becomes more obvious and climate change in the Yangtze River Delta owes much to human activity," Ke said.


The warming became evident in the mid-1980s, and the average temperature in these three places rose by 0.9 degrees C between the 1950s and the 1990s.


Shanghai was ahead of Hangzhou and Nanjing, capital of Jiangsu, in terms of the rising temperature, while temperatures were increasing at a higher rate during the winter.


As a result, the sea level has been rising at a fairly rapid rate.


Sea levels have risen by about 2.6 millimeters annually in China over the past 50 years, but this rate has increased in recent years.


Experts at the forum predicted that compared with 2000, the sea levels of Shanghai, Jiangsu and Zhejiang would rise up by 22, 13 and 28 millimeters respectively by 2006, and 45, 27 and 55 millimeters by 2013.


"The rising sea level obviously threatens coastal cities, all of which will work to safeguard their people and economies, but this might take some time before its impact becomes clear," said Ke.


As the sea rises, salt water will encroach on underground water resources and the coastal environment will be imbalanced, meaning that coastal cities will be more vulnerable to typhoons or rainstorms.


Data shows that the annual rainfall in these areas has generally been increasing, with rainfall in the 1990s being 200 millimeters greater than in the 1960s.


With the increasing warming of the climate, more rainstorms are likely to occur in the Yangtze River Delta.


"Though we are absolutely unable to predict disasters like the next 'Ice Age' depicted in The Day After Tomorrow, it is likely we will witness more extreme weather such as rainstorms, high temperatures or drought due to the increasing global warming and the greenhouse effect having an impact on cities in the Yangtze River Delta," he added.


Local experts have called on the government to adjust the industrial structure, stopping industries that consume more energy and generate low returns.


The government and the public should adopt more effective measures to reduce the negative impact on the climate as "we will either all be the beneficiary, or the victim," Ke said.


(China Daily October 15, 2004)


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