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Glaciers in west China shrinking

world Updated: Dec 15, 2007 08:41 IST

Glaciers in China's high-altitude western areas have shrunk seven to 18 per cent over the past five years, according to a new survey.

The research that started in May this year on the country's glaciers indicated an average shrinking of 7.4 per cent compared with the results of the first survey completed in 2002.

A total area of nearly 20,000 square km, or around one-third of the country's total, has been surveyed in the new project.

Experts from the ministry of science and technology and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) launched the yet-to-be-completed survey. It was the second nationwide survey undertaken and would be finished in five years. The first survey was conducted from 1978 to 2002.

Glaciers in the Junggar Basin and Ili River areas in northern Xinjiang and the upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River in Tibet had the most evident shrinkage of 18 per cent or more, the survey showed.

In Qilian Mountain in the northwest and the Lancang river area in the southwest, glaciers shrank by about 10 per cent on average.

"The change of glaciers is in fact a manifestation of the pressure upon China's environment by global warming," said Ding Yongjian, a CAS research fellow.

Global warming has led to an increase in the average temperature in the western area of China over the past few decades. This has caused the glacial shrinking, a thawing of frozen earth and worsening arid conditions, said the scholar.

Qin Dahe, a CAS academician and head of the panel of experts for the survey, said the project would provide basic data for the study on the effects of climate change upon Chinese glaciers in the past 20 years. It would also provide information about the use of water resources in the arid western areas.

China has about 46,000 glaciers covering a total area of nearly 60,000 sq km. These accounted for more than 50 per cent of the glaciers in the middle and low latitude areas of the Earth.