Video: China's warming threat

msnbc.com news services
updated 5/2/2006 3:22:08 PM ET 2006-05-02T19:22:08

Glaciers covering China’s Qinghai-Tibet plateau are shrinking by 7 percent a year due to global warming and the environmental consequences may be dire, the government-run Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday.

Rising temperatures that have accelerated the melting of glaciers across what’s known as the “roof of the world” will eventually turn tundra that spans Tibet and surrounding high country into desert, the agency quoted Researcher Dong Guangrong with the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying.

Dong warned the deterioration of the plateau may trigger more droughts and increase sandstorms that lash western and northern China. He reached his conclusions after analyzing four decades of data from China’s 681 weather stations.

Han Yongxiang of China’s National Meteorological Bureau said average temperatures in Tibet had risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since the 1980s, accelerating the melting of glaciers and frozen tundra across the plateau.

Huge swath of China
The Qinghai-Tibet plateau covers a million square miles -- about a quarter of China’s land surface -- at an average altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level.

The glaciers there account for 47 percent of China's total glacier coverage, according to Xinhua.

Dust and sandstorms are a growing problem, particularly in north China, due to deforestation, drought and the environmental depredations of China’s breakneck economic growth.

Beijing has approved programs to reclaim land by planting hardy grasses and shrubs on 30 percent of the country's 700,000 square miles of desert by 2050.

‘Dust forecast’ a possibility
Workers have already planted thousands of acres of vegetation to stop the spread of deserts in China's north and west.

A strong sandstorm swept across one eighth of China’s territory on April 16 and 17, dumping 330,000 tons of dust on Beijing and reaching as far as Korea and Japan.

China’s weathermen might soon launch a “dust forecast” in their bulletins, Xinhua quoted a China Meteorological Administration official as saying.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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