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Ecological disaster looming on Tibetan Plateau

December 19, 2009

(TibetanReview.net, Dec17, 2009)  The glaciers on the Tibetan plateau,
seen as the globe?s "third pole" because it has the largest repository
of ice outside the arctic and Antarctic, are melting at an alarming rate
due to effects of environmental pollution and greenhouse gases, reported
UPI Dec 15, citing NASA and Chinese scientists.

Black soot is probably responsible for as much as half of the glacial
melt and greenhouse gases responsible for the rest, a research finding
announced Dec 15 by NASA and the Chinese Academy of Sciences was cited
as saying. Deposits of black soot on Tibet?s glaciers were reported to
have increased considerably in recent years.

"During the last 20 years, the black soot concentration has increased
two- to three-fold relative to its concentration in 1975," Junji Cao, a
researcher from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing and a
coauthor of the paper, was quoted as saying. Soot absorbs incoming solar
radiation and can speed glacial melting when deposited on snow in
sufficient quantities.

Most soot in the region was reported to come from diesel engines,
coal-fired power plants and outdoor cooking stoves.

Temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau were reported to have risen 0.5
degrees Fahrenheit per decade over the past 30 years, which was about
twice the rate of global temperature increases. "Fifty percent of the
glaciers were retreating from 1950 to 1980 in the Tibetan region; that
rose to 95 percent in the early 21st century," Tandong Yao, director of
the Chinese Academy's Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, was quoted
as saying in a release.

Melting waters from the Tibetan Plateau's glaciers feed many of Asia's
longest rivers, including the Yangtze, Mekong and Ganges, which sustain
more than 1 billion people.

Yao Tandong, one of China's leading glaciologists, had warned in 2008 in
the journal Nature that two-thirds of the PRC?s glaciers could be gone
by 2050, adding that "the full-scale glacier shrinkage in the plateau
regions will eventually lead to an ecological catastrophe."
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