China / Society

Tibet's glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years

By Stian Reklev and Kathy Chen (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-15 08:20


Tibet's glaciers at their warmest in 2,000 years

Ice melts on the Purog Kangri Glacier recently in Shuanghu county, the Tibet autonomous region. China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is influenced by global warming, and Purog Kangri Glacier, the third-largest in the world, has shrunk by 50 meters over the past 30 years. Tang Zhaoming / Xinhua News Agency

The Tibetan Plateau, whose glaciers supply water to hundreds of millions of people in Asia, has been warmer over the past 50 years than at any stage in the past two millennia, a Chinese newspaper said, citing an academic report.

Temperatures and humidity are likely to continue to rise throughout this century, causing glaciers to retreat and desertification to spread, according to the report by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research.

"Over the past 50 years, the rate of temperature rise has been double the average global level," it said, according to the report published on the website of Science and Technology Daily.

Glacier retreat could disrupt the water supply to several of Asia's main rivers that originate from the plateau, including China's Yellow and Yangtze, India's Brahmaputra, and the Mekong and Salween in Southeast Asia.

In May, Chinese scientists said Tibetan glaciers had shrunk 15 percent - about 8,000 square km - over the past 30 years.

The new report said a combination of climate change and human activity on the plateau was likely to cause an increase in floods and landslides there.

However, rising temperatures had also improved the local ecosystem, it said.

The scientists urged the government to work to reduce the human impact on the region's fragile environment.


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