Roof of the World get­ting warmer, wet­ter

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA -

XINING — The Qing­haiTi­bet Plateau, or the Roof of the World, has be­come warmer and wet­ter un­der the im­pact of global cli­mate change, sci­en­tists said.

The plateau, lo­cated about 3,000 to 5,000 me­ters above sea level, cov­ers Ti­bet, western Qing­hai prov­ince and neigh­bor­ing ar­eas. It con­tains thou­sands of glaciers and is home to the head­wa­ters of some ma­jor rivers that flow through China and sur­round­ing re­gions.

Most sen­si­tive to cli­mate change, the plateau has be­come warmer and wet­ter in the last decade, Chi­nese sci­en­tists said.

Lakes on the plateau are ex­pand­ing, glaciers are re­treat­ing, and ex­treme weather con­di­tions are fre­quent, height­en­ing risks of nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, they say.

Ac­cord­ing the China Global At­mos­phere Watch Base­line Ob­ser­va­tory at Mount Waliguan, car­bon diox­ide con­cen­tra­tion has risen by 2 parts per mil­lion a year. The sta­tion is one of 31 global base­line ob­ser­va­to­ries es­tab­lished by the World Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“The data tell us green­house gas emis­sions are still a big prob­lem, and it is hard to buck the trend of global warm­ing,” said Zhang Guo­qing, head of the ob­ser­va­tory. “We prob­a­bly have no way to stop the plateau from get­ting wet­ter and warmer, but we need to study its cause and cope with the chal­lenges.”

Ar­eas that used to be too harsh for hu­mans have be­come hab­it­able. Herders have built homes at the foot of glaciers at the source of the Yangtze.

Jiang­gudiru glacier, one of the largest glaciers at the source of the Yangtze, started to re­cede in the 1970s. The pace has quick­ened since the 1990s, and went even faster from 2010 to 2016, when it con­tracted by nearly six me­ters ev­ery year, said Pu Jianchen, re­searcher of Chi­nese Academy of Sciences.

“The re­ced­ing glacier is di­rect ev­i­dence of global cli­mate change. Though in the short term runoff from glaciers will swell rivers and it may seem a good thing, in the long term it may ad­versely im­pact rivers, and lead to de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion of soil,” Pu said.

Yang Yong, an in­de­pen­dent ex­pert, echoed Pu’s wor­ries and warned of ge­o­log­i­cal haz­ards caused by global warm­ing.

“When the plateau’s abil­ity to reg­u­late cli­mate weak­ens, we will see more green land turned into desert,” he said.

Qing­hai Lake, China’s largest salt­wa­ter lake, was 4,429.3 square km in Septem­ber 2016, an in­crease of 169.7 sq km from the same pe­riod in 2004, ac­cord­ing to ob­ser­va­tions.

Ex­perts at­tribute the ex­pan­sion to in­creas­ing pre­cip­i­ta­tion and glacier runoffs. Av­er­age an­nual rain­fall from 2005 to 2016 in the area rose nearly 18 per­cent com­pared to that be­tween 1961 to 2004, ac­cord­ing to Dai Sheng, se­nior engi­neer of the Qing­hai Cli­mate Cen­ter.

An­nual speed that Jiang­gudiru glacier re­ceded from 2010 to 2016

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from China

© PressReader. All rights reserved.