The rapid shrinking of the country's most famous glacier is
severely threatening oases in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, scientists
Glacier No 1, which lies at the headwaters of the Urumqi River
in the Tianshan Mountains, has shrunk by close to 14 percent in the
past four decades, an unpublished survey by the Chinese Academy of
Sciences' (CAS) arid regions environment and engineering research
The glacier now covers 1.68 square km.
"Because of the continuous rise in temperature globally and in
the western part of the country, the trend of glaciers retreating
on a large scale will be irreversible," the report stated.
The shrinking of glaciers may lead to an increase of glacial
water in the rivers in the short term but this water will
eventually diminish and droughts may follow, the CAS reported.
The report added that glaciers in the western part of the
country have shrunk by 4.5 percent in four decades.
Glacier No 1 alone retreated by 80 meters between 1962 and 1980,
and a further 60 meters between 1980 and 1992.
In 1993 it split into two because of the shrinkage.
CAS academician Qin Dahe said the glacier has been retreating by
up to 6 m every year since 1993.
Inland provinces are constantly threatened by droughts and stand
to suffer most from glaciers shrinking.
Glaciers feed 25.4 percent of Xinjiang's rivers, 8.6 percent of
the Tibet Autonomous Region's rivers and 3.6
percent of Gansu's rivers.
The amount of water the country gets from glaciers every year is
similar to the amount that flows into the sea from the Yellow River
in the same period.
China ranks fourth in the world in terms of both area and ice
volume of glaciers, after Canada, the United States and Russia. Its
glaciers cover 59,406 square km and have a total ice volume of
5,590 cubic km.
(China Daily November 2, 2007)