May 2, 2006
China’s ‘Roof of the World’ Glaciers Melting Fast
BEIJING -- Glaciers covering China's Qinghai-Tibet plateau are shrinking by 7 percent a year due to global warming and the environmental consequences may be dire, Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.
Rising temperatures that have accelerated the melting of glaciers across the "roof of the world" will eventually turn tundra that spans Tibet and surrounding high country into desert, the agency quoted Professor Dong Guangrong with the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying.
Dong warned the deterioration of the plateau may trigger more droughts and increase sandstorms that lash western and northern China. He reached his conclusions after analyzing four decades of data from China's 681 weather stations.
Han Yongxiang of China's National Meteorological Bureau said average temperatures in Tibet had risen 0.9 centigrade since the 1980s, accelerating the melting of glaciers and frozen tundra across the plateau.
The Qinghai-Tibet plateau covers 2.5 million square km (0.96 million square miles) -- about a quarter of China's land surface -- at an average altitude of 4,000 metres (13,000 ft) above sea level.
Dust and sandstorms are a growing problem, particularly in North China, due to deforestation, drought and the environmental depredations of China's breakneck economic growth.
A strong sandstorm swept across one eighth of China's territory on April 16 and 17, dumping 330,000 tons of dust on Beijing and reaching as far as Korea and Japan.
China's weathermen might soon launch a "dust forecast" in their bulletins, Xinhua quoted a China Meteorological Administration official as saying.