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Qinghai-Tibet Plateau glaciers shrink 15% in 30 years

SOUTHWEST China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the major source of the country's largest rivers, has seen its glaciers shrink rapidly over the past 30 years, a national research institute revealed today.

According to the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), glaciers on the plateau and surrounding areas have shrunk by 15 percent from 53,000 to 45,000 square kilometers over the past three decades.

As the highest place in the world's mid-latitude regions, the plateau is more likely to be affected by global warming.

Kang Shichang, a state laboratory director with the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute of CAS, said glaciers in the plateau have been shrinking since the 20th century and speeded up since the 1990s.

More and bigger cracks have appeared in ice at regions of an altitude above 6,300 meters in Mount Qomolangma, a sign of rapidly melting glaciers, he said.

China has more than 46,000 glaciers, mainly in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. They are a reliable indicator of climate change, and easy for scientists to observe.

Kang said retreating glaciers have impacted meltwater rivers and led to more glacier-lake outbursts.

"It can increase water flow of major rivers in the short term, but in the long run, a continuation of the retreat will eventually deplete the glacial ice and substantially reduce or eliminate runoff," he added.


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