Qinghai Kokonor Lake to stop 'shrinking'

By Wu Yong (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-03 06:41

The country's largest inland lake, Qinghai Kokonor, will stop "shrinking" and start reverting to its former level within a decade, scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences said yesterday.

"The water level in the lake will stabilize by about 2016 and then it will start to rise," Li Shijie, a researcher from the Nanjing Institute of Geography & Limnology of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said.

It is expected to reach 24 m, its level in the 1970's, by 2030.

Qinghai Kokonor Lake is the largest inland salt lake in China and also one of the highest lakes in the world. It is called "Kokonor" in Mongolian and "Cowenbu" in Tibetan, both of which mean "blue sea".

However, between 1970 and 2000, its water level fell by about 10 cm every year, causing much public concern, Li said.

In order to prevent it falling further, the local authority has banned farming and fishing in and around the lake and also stopped people from living beside it.

Li said he and his colleagues had spent three years studying the lake.

Forecasting rainfall is very complex and involves the soil, climate and the terrain, Li said. However, he did manage to set up a water level model based on data from 1960 to 2000, and the results were "rather accurate" he said.

"This is all due to global warming, which causes stronger Indian Ocean monsoons, which in turn create more rainfall," Li said.

"The change in rainfall over the years provides a reflection of the different stages of global warming," he said.

In recent decades, there has been an increase in temperature and evaporation, which finally lead to the water level falling, he said.

"In the second stage, the heat creates more rainfall which counters the evaporation," Li said.

He also said current research was still quite "rough" due to a lack of data.

"But this trend is only about time. Sooner or later, the water level will increase," Li said.

Chinese scientists made the same forecast several years ago in the book Assessment and Forecast of Western China's Environment Change.

Statistics from the climate date center in Qinghai Province show that in 2006 the lake enjoyed a slight rise in its water level due to high rainfall and water inflow.

"With more rainfall, the Qinghai Kokonor Lake's ecology will get better and better, and that will be good for the whole region," Li said.

(China Daily 07/03/2007 page4)

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