Over half of NW China’s glaciers could vanish in 50 years

Owing to climate change and human activities, Urumqi Glacier No.1 in Xinjiang, northwest China, a river source located in the Tianshan Mountains, is melting at fast rate after the peak in 1993. It is estimated that Urumqi Glacier No.1 will disappear in 50 years and more than 60 per cent of smaller glaciers around will also vanish.

There are many reasons for the melting of glaciers, of which climate warming accounts for 70 per cent. 2016 was the warmest year on record when average global surface temperature was 1.1 degrees above pre-industrial level and 0.83 degree higher than average from 1961 to 1990, according to a statement by WMO on the State of the Global Climate in 2016.

The melting of Glacier No.1 is attributed to rise in global and regional temperatures. If temperature rise can be brought down to 2 degrees or 1.5 degrees, Glacier No.1 can last as long as 90 years, Li Zhongqin, the head of Tianshan Glaciological Station of Chinese Academy of Sciences, told thepaper.com.

Moreover, dust from nearby pasture, mines, coal plants, electric power enterprises and rubbish from visitors, add a layer of grey to the glaciers, thereby accelerating melting speed, Thepaper.cn reported.

Glaciers are important headwaters for rivers and major sources of water supply in extreme drought areas. Their disappearance therefore poses threats to local water supply and even the sustenance of ecological balance.

In the long term, the melting of glaciers is irresistible, but human beings can take prompt measures to slow down the rate, Li said.

Government took a series of measures including calling for limits on glacier tourism, closing surrounding mines and factories and building glacier conservation areas, the expert added. The impact of these measures has been noticeable in the past 10 t0 20 years. Still, experts hope that the protection of glaciers will be stepped up.


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