XINING, Feb. 4 (Xinhua) -- Chinese scientists said Wednesday glaciers that serve
as water sources on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau are melting at a "worrisome
speed," having receded 196 square km over the past nearly 40 years.
A train roars on the Qinghai-Tibet
Railway at the Kunlun Mountains area in Qinghai, Nov. 25, 2006. Chinese
scientists said Wednesday glaciers that serve as water sources on the
Qinghai-Tibet plateau are melting at a "worrisome speed," having receded
196 square km over the past nearly 40 years. (Xinhua file
The decline is equal to about one-fourth of the area
of New York City.
Xin Yuanhong, senior engineer in charge of a
three-year field study of glaciers in the region, said glaciers at the
headwaters of the Yangtze, China's longest river, cover 1,051 square km, down
from 1,247 square km in 1971.
"The reduction means more than 989 million cubic
meters of water melted away," said Xin, whose team surveyed the glaciers between
June 2005 and August 2008. That much water would fill Beijing's largest
The team was composed of experts from the Qinghai
Provincial Geological Research Institute and the Beijing-based China University
Xin said the team has just finished its report. The
data will be used by the China Geological Survey Institute under the Ministry of
Land and Resources to draft water-preservation policies.
The team found the glacier tongue of Yuzhu Peak of
Kunlun Mountain fell by 1,500 meters over the past nearly 40 years. The retreat
rate is close to that of the Quelccaya Glacier in Peru, the world's largest
tropical ice mass.
The eastern side of the glaciers in the Tanggula
Mountain Pass saw the fastest melt rate, with the front receding 265 m annually.
The average annual retreat speed was 7.57 m when compared with the figures for
Xin attributed the accelerated melting to global
"Melting glacier water will replenish rivers in the
short run, but as the resource diminishes, drought will dominate the river
reaches in the long term," he said.
He explained that the uplift of the plateau has
blocked warm, humid air over the Indian Ocean from flowing over the towering
Himalayas and Tanggula Mountain to the Yangtze River reaches.
Warmer weather in the area is attracting more cattle
and sheep herders, adding pressure on the ecosystem, said Li Lin, the head of
Conservation Strategies at the World Wide Fund for Nature