May 2, 2006

China’s “roof of the world” glaciers melting fast

BEIJING (Reuters) - 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

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.