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Tibet's Record Temperatures Spark Climate Change Fears

Sun Jan 7, 2006

Temperatures in rugged Tibet have hit record highs in recent days, China's state press has reported, as a scientific survey warned of the impact of global warming in the Himalayan region.

Friday's temperature in the Qamdo area of eastern Tibet was 21.8 degrees Celsius (71 degrees Fahrenheit), 1.7 degrees higher than the previous record set for the same day in 1996, Xinhua news agency reported.

In Dengqen county, also in eastern Tibet, the mercury reached 16.6 degrees Celsius on Thursday, 2.5 degrees higher than the previous record for the same day set in 2001, it said.

Eight other places across the region also recorded record-breaking daily temperatures over the past few days, it added.

Meteorological data in the Himalayan region began to be collected in 1970.

China's Tibet plateau, seen as a barometer of world climate conditions, is experiencing accelerating glacial melt and other ecological change, the leading People's Daily reported Friday.

The mountainous region's glaciers have been melting at an average rate of 131.4 square kilometers (50 square miles) per year over the past 30 years, the paper said, citing a recent geological study.

Researchers who conducted the survey said that even if global warming did not worsen, the area's glaciers would be reduced by nearly a third by 2050 and up to half by 2090, at the current rate.

The survey, conducted by the Remote Sensing Department of the China Aero Geophysical Survey, also found a rapidly rising snow line, shrinking wetlands, and increased desertification compared with 30 years ago, the paper said.

These problems will worsen as the glacial melt -- which has accelerated in recent years -- continues, further depleting the area's water resources, the researchers predicted.

The Tibet plateau, which includes the Chinese portion of the Himalayas, accounts for nearly one quarter of China's landmass, stretching from Tibet to the adjacent provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan.

A separate national assessment released last week on the impact of climate change said temperatures in China would rise significantly in coming decades, water shortages would worsen, and extreme weather events would intensify.

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