Monday, January 26, 2009

Shrinking Tibetan Glaciers Threaten Water Shortages for 2 Billion in Asia

As the earth continues to warm, Tibetan glaciers holding vast reserves of fresh water are melting away into the sea, threatening water shortages for roughly two billion in Asia:
Roughly 2 billion Asians will experience water shortages in the coming decades as global warming diminishes glaciers on the Tibetan Plateau, scientists warned on Friday.

The plateau has more than 45,000 glaciers that accumulate during the region’s snowy season, before they drain into Asia’s main rivers, which include the Yellow, Yangtze, Brahmanputra and Mekong. Some scientists refer to the plateau as the "Third Pole" due to its massive glacial ice sheets.

However, temperatures on the plateau are rising at twice the rate of other parts of the world, according Lonnie Thompson, an Ohio State University glaciologist who for decades has gathered ice cores from glaciers around the world.

As these higher temperatures cause the glaciers to melt at faster rates, Asians have developed a false sense of security about the area’s water supplies, he said.

Should the melting continue at current levels, two-thirds of the plateau's glaciers will likely disappear by 2050, he said during a meeting on climate change at the Asia Society in Manhattan.

However, those who depend on the water will begin to see dwindling supplies long before then, he said.

"The scary thing is that a lot of structures, cities and lifestyles that have been developed in the region over the last 100 years were based on an abundance of water," Thompson said.

Nearly 2 billion people in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan would experience water shortages as the rivers slow, said Geoff Dabelko, director of the environment and security program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, during an interview with Reuters.
Red Orbit.


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