BEIJING (Reuters) – Temperatures in the northeastern part of China’s vast Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, often dubbed the Roof of the World, have risen more than three times faster than the global average, Chinese data shows.
FILE PHOTO: A Tibetan sheep herder wearing a balaclava leads his herd into a fenced field on the outskirts of Jintan township near the Qinghai Lake in Qinghai province, China March 11, 2009. REUTERS/David Gray/File Photo
The plateau, which spans more than 1,000 km (620 miles) north to south and over 2,000 km east to west, is the source of many of the world’s longest rivers including the Yangtze. It also houses a fragile ecosystem sensitive to global warming.
The average temperature in the Qinghai section of the plateau has climbed 0.43 degree Celsius per decade, compared with the global average of 0.12C per decade, China’s official Xinhua news agency reported, citing monitoring data from Qinghai province.
The statistics reveal that the area has also become wetter between 1961 and 2017, with the average annual precipitation rate increasing 8.0 mm per decade.
At the present rate of warming, the world’s temperatures would likely reach 1.5C between 2030 and 2052 after an increase of 1C above pre-industrial levels since the mid-1800s, according to a United Nations report earlier this month.
The report said society would have to enact “unprecedented” changes to how it consumes energy, travels and builds. [nL8N1WO02N]
Glaciers on the entire Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and neighboring regions have shrunk 15 percent in the past half a century, state media cited scientists as saying last month.
The melting glaciers, as a result of rising temperatures, have expanded lakes and increased water flows in rivers originating from the area.
Thawing permafrost on the plateau, which accounts for up to a quarter of China’s land carbon sinks, could release earlier trapped carbon and further hasten the warming in temperatures.
Qinghai Lake, China’s largest, has expanded to 4,400 sq km, its biggest surface area in almost two decades, according to provincial monitoring data published in 2017.
Reporting by Ryan Woo; Editing by Joseph Radford