Global Warming Threatens the Ecology of Tibet

Meteorological experts in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region have expressed concern that global warming is threatening the ecology of the region.

"The warming climate has caused more meteorological disasters than ever in Tibet. Problems like receding snow lines, shrinking glaciers, drying grasslands and desert expansion are increasingly threatening the natural eco-system in the region," said Song Shanyun, the director of the Tibet Regional Meteorological Bureau.

"Natural disasters, like droughts, landslides, snowstorms and fires are more frequent and calamitous now. The tolls are more severe and losses are bigger," he said.

Song cited two major disasters in 2000, which caused total losses of 1.4 billion yuan. In April, 2000, a thawed snow cap triggered what experts described as a "rare and extremely large-scale" landslide in Nyingchi prefecture in southeast Tibet. More than 300 million cubic meters of debris, piling up to 100 meters high, blocked a river and besieged more 4,000 people.

The other disaster was in Xigaze city in southern Tibet, when a flood of the size that usually occurs only once in a century affected more than 60,000 people and inundated thousands of hectares of cropland.
The region, home to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, regarded as a barometer for the world's climate, has seen various signs of global warming.

A study by the bureau shows the temperature in Tibet has been rising by 0.3 degrees Celsius every 10 years, about 10 times the speed of the national average, which is 0.4 degrees every century.

"The temperature rise in Tibet is only a miniature of the global warming trend," said Zhang Hezhen, a senior engineer with the bureau.

Tibet just experienced its third warm winter in the last seven years between December 2006 and February 2007, with a temperature rise of nine degrees in some areas.

Statistics show that glaciers at the plateau have melted at an annual average rate of 131.4 square km over the past three decades.

Scientists have even warned that Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mount Everest, which sits in the southern part of Xigaze at 8844.43 meters above sea level, will eventually lose its cover of snow and ice if global warming continues to melt glaciers in the plateau.