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Graphic shows how the Laohugou No. 12 and neighbouring glaciers in China are melting.


Glaciers in China melt at shocking rate

By Ninian Carter

November 11, 2020 - More than 2,600 glaciers on China’s stark Tibetan plateau are melting at an alarming rate – none more so than the giant Laohugou No. 12.

There are 2,684 glaciers in China’s Qilian mountain range – all of them disappearing at an unprecedented rate due to the effects of global warming.

The largest glacier in the region, Laohugou No. 12, has retreated about 450 metres in the past 70 years, since Chinese researchers set up a monitoring station to study it.

The 20-square kilometre glacier has shrunk by around 7% during that time, with melting accelerating in the mid-1980s. Also of concern is the loss of ice thickness, with about 13 metres of ice having disappeared.

The Tibetan plateau, the source of the Yangtze and other great Asian rivers, is sometimes termed the “Third Pole” given its ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside of the polar regions.

Since the 1950s, average temperatures in the area have risen by about 1.5C, with no end in sight.

Data from the China Academy of Sciences shows that glacial retreat was 50% faster from 1990 to 2010 than it was from 1956 to 1990.

Glacial meltwater is pooling into lakes, causing floods in springtime and droughts in the summer, with vegetable farmers suffering as a result – reduced opportunities for irrigation mean smaller yields.

Glacial melting could peak within 10 years, after which the region could enter into water crisis.

PUBLISHED: 11/11/2020; STORY: Graphic News