Xinjiang glaciers ‘may vanish’

By Shan Jie Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/19 22:13:39

Region’s vital water sources face extinction: report

Scientists have called for prompt measures to preserve glaciers in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, saying 60 percent of the glaciers could possibly vanish if global warming is not controlled.

Climate change is the major cause of shrinking glaciers, said Li Zhongqin, head of the Tianshan Glaciological Station under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), adding that "if the global temperatures keep rising like what is happening now, the No.1 Glacier at the massive Tianshan Mountains would disappear under extreme conditions," the Shanghai-based news website reported  Tuesday.

Small glaciers at low altitudes are more vulnerable to climate change, said Chen Xi, another scientist from CAS, the Xinhua News Agency reported in February 2016.

Xinjiang has 18,311 glaciers, 60 percent of which are smaller than the No.1 Glacier, which means 60 percent of the glaciers in Xinjiang may disappear in 50 years, reported.

"The extreme conditions refer to a continuous rise in temperatures combined with unfettered human activities that worsen the climate," Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

For Xinjiang, glaciers not only serve as a source of water, but also help adjust the imbalance of water resources across the region, according to Ma.

China has 46,377 glaciers, and 46.8 percent of the national ice reserves are located in Xinjiang. Global warming, grazing, mining and tourism have accelerated the destruction of the glaciers and led to water shortages in some areas, Xinhua reported in 2016.

According to the statistics released by the Tianshan Glaciological Station, the east and west sections of Tianshan No.1 Glacier shrank 6.3 meters and 7.2 meters respectively from April 2016 to April 2017,  reported Tuesday.

The melting of the No.1 Glacier reflects the changes in glaciers elsewhere in the world. The No. 1 Glacier has been listed as one of the most significant glaciers for scientific observation and study by the Switzerland-based World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), reported.

The No.1 Glacier is also the origin of Urumqi River, which is an important water source for the city of Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, with a population of 3.5 million.

"If we limit our activities in strict accordance with the Paris climate agreement, the No.1 Glacier could last as long as 90 years," Li said. According to Li, the Xinjiang government has done a great deal to protect the glaciers in the region, including renovation of the National Highway 216 near the No.1 Glacier to reduce the dust flying to the glacier, reported.

But scientists hope the regional government could speed up its efforts, he said.

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