Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meltdown in Tibet

All is not well at the rooftop of the world - China's Tibetan glaciers are melting at an unprecedented rated causing droughts, desertification, sandstorms and eventually contributing to sea level rise downstream.

About 47 percent of China's 35,000 glaciers are on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau in the Himalayas, where the Yangtze, Yellow, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Salween rivers all originate and research over a period of 40 years shows that the glaciers there are melting at a rate of 7.0 percent annually.

tibet plateau
Photo shows the retreating Halong Glacier of the Animegen Mountain on the Tibetan plateau in 1981 (top) and in 2005 (bottom). Source: AFP/Getty Images.

It is estimated that Tibet will lose 80% of its glaciers in the next 30 years due to global warming. Tibet may seem far away from many small islands states, but these findings point to the early warning signs of global warming. It is estimated that the melting of all mountain glaciers around the planet, excluding the polar regions, may have contributed as much as 60% of the total glacier contribution to sea level rise since the 1990s.

The world's glaciers are called the 'barometers' of the planet. Once they are gone and many small islands submerged, one wonders what will be the next barometer - perhaps a change from Sports Utility Vehicles to Noah's Ark.

 

Reference:

Meier, M.F., M.B. Dyurgerov, U.K. Rick, S. O'Neel, W.T. Pfeffer, R.S. Anderson, S.P. Anderson, and A.F. Glazovsky. 2007. Glaciers dominate eustatic sea-level rise in the 21st century. Science 317: 1064-1067.