18 May 2005

Balance of global water resources at risk

Global warming is shrinking glaciers on the Tibet side of Mount Everest faster than ever, putting world water supplies at risk, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.

Chinese scientists researching the world's tallest peak, which China refers to by its Tibetan name, "Qomolangma", had found clear evidence of increasing glacial melting, Xinhua said.

"Global warming has resulted in glaciers melting fast in the Mount Qomolangma area ... threatening the balance of global water resources," it said.

Around 75 percent of the world's fresh water is stored in glacial ice, much of it in mountain areas, allowing for heavy winter rain and snowfall to be released gradually into river networks throughout the summer or dry months.

"The growing melting area means less fresh water reserves for the world in the future," Xinhua said.

The Chinese scientists had found the melting point of one Everest glacier had risen around 50 metres in just two years, more than twice as fast as normal, while a huge, high-altitude ice cliff seen in 2002 had apparently disappeared, it said.

Similar melting has been reported on Nepal's side of the mountain. The United Nations warned in 2002 that more than 40 Himalayan glacial lakes were dangerously close to bursting, endangering thousands of people, because of global warming.

Scientists say global warming could drive the average global temperature up by 1,4-5,8 degrees Celsius over the next 100 years, which would cause glaciers to retreat and oceans to rise and swamp low-lying areas around the world.

Source: www.iol.co.za


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