HARBIN: Scientists have warned that climate change is threatening the most famous attraction of this northern city - its annual ice sculpture competition.
Workers carve a giant snow sculpture during the China Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, January 6, 2008. [Agencies]
According to the local meteorological bureau, rising temperatures in the city, located on the edge of Siberia, have had a detrimental effect on the event.
Yin Xuemian, a senior meteorologist at the Heilongjiang Observatory, said: "In December 2002, ice lanterns in Harbin melted right after they were sculpted.
"In 2006, a lot of money and energy were spent on redoing the sculptures, but as the temperatures keep rising, the amount of time available for ice and snow activities is being drastically reduced."
As well as melting Harbin's sculptures, global warming has been blamed for the country's water shortages, which have taken their toll on rice cultivation, and also for the shrinking of high altitude glaciers.
"Global warming used to be something people just talked about. But when we look at documents, statistics and the actual changes in climate, we see the situation is pretty alarming," Yin said.
"The average winter temperature in Harbin used to be 5 C lower than it is now."
The average temperature in Harbin last year was 6.6 C, the highest since records began, he said.
China has urged developed countries to take the lead in fighting climate change and do more to transfer clean-energy technologies to the developing world.
Far away from the global debates on how to curb climate change, this year's participants in the Harbin ice and snow festival have more pressing concerns: How to keep their creations from melting.
"We're all worried that the things will just collapse," a participant from Malaysia said.
A Chinese Canadian participant said he was feeling the same changes in his adopted country.
"When I first got to Canada, it was so cold. But now, it's getting much warmer," he said.
"Maybe slowly, Vancouver will become like Hong Kong."