The thawing of a glacier in the Tianshan Mountains in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region has been accelerating, local scientists said Thursday.
The Tianshan Mountains. [File photo]
The glacier, with an altitude of 3,750 meters, has retreated by over one meter since May and it is expected to further retreat by three to four meters by the end of September, according to the Tianshan Mountains Glacier Observation Station under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
"When the weather is hot, streams of meltwater flow down the glacier," said Jin Shuang, an engineer at the station.
The glacier's total coverage has shrunk by 14 percent from 1.95 square kilometers in 1962 to 1.68 square kilometers in 2006. The glacier split in half in 1993.
Local herder Shaersai has been living near the glacier for more than 20 years.
"Before the glacier split, I had to ride on a horse to get across. But I can cross it on foot now, since the glacier has retreated, the snow has decreased and the snow line has risen," he said.
Li Shuhua, a high school teacher in Urumqi who has often taken students to the glacier to participate in environmental protection activities, said wild animals and plants that were abundant there in the 1980s are now hard to find due to the shrinking of the glacier.
A report published by the Academy of Sciences in April showed that meltwater runoff from the glacier increased from 1959 to 2008.
From 1993 to 2003, the eastern half of the glacier retreated by 35.4 meters and the western half retreated by 57.9 meters, said Li Zhongqin, head of the station.
China has 46,377 glaciers, with 18,311 in Xinjiang.