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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Retreating Glaciers of Tibet- a sign of Climate Change

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Tibet’s glaciers have decreased by 7 percent in last four decades, says Chinese Academy of Sciences.

An estimation by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences report that Tibet’s glaciers have decreased by 7 per cent within last four decades. The director of the Qinghai Tibet Plateau Research Institute of CAS, Yao Tondong has reported to the state run Xinhua, a news agency that abrupt and exceptional warming on the plateau observed recently has been warmer than anything during the last 2000 years. This year’s massive flooding in Qinghai that has forced the villagers of the area to migrate elsewhere was on the highest scale and the researchers are of the opinion that it happened only due to increased melts of glaciers. The glacial lake in the Qinghai area burst to cause extensive damage to the communities downstream this year due to the same reason. It is important to note that the glaciers of the Tibetan plateau in the Qinghai catchment area feed the yellow river and the Yangtze River forming lifelines to the livelihood of millions in China.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that Himalayan glaciers could disappear within a period of three decades if warming at the current rate continued. The Tibet Plateau Climate Change Monitoring Service Programme has reported that Tibetan Glaciers have been receding at the rate of 131.4sq km per year and the snow lines have been retreating at the rate of 350 m per year – Qin Dahe, former director of China Meteorological Administration has said,” In the short term, this will cause lakes to expand and bring floods and mud flows in the long run. Glaciers are the vital life lines for Asian rivers such as Indus and the Ganges. Once they vanish, water supplies in those regions will be in peril.”

Recently, research reports from China have revealed about the rapid retreat of glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau which is the source of many of the sub continental rivers. The report has warned of the dangers to the water supply and livelihoods of millions in India, down stream of these rivers. A research team from Greenpeace, China and volunteers of the Green Earth at Beijing have recommended the receding snowline and extensive flooding in the upper reaches of several Himalayan rivers, as a result of increased glacier melts. Li Yan of Greenpeace Campaign, China conducted a study of glacial melts near the source of Yellow and Yangtze rivers. The study has reported that the glacial retreat on the plateau has been very obvious, and there was direct evidence that the glaciers were retreating rapidly.(source: The Hindu,2nd Nov. 2009)

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