A recent report suggests that the glaciers located on Central Asia mountaintops are melting four times faster than the rest of the world’s glaciers and researchers expect global warming to accelerate even more the process.
If the situation continues, experts believe, the entire Central Asia form Kazakhstan to western China may face flooding, low crop yield, and may be unable to generate enough hydro power from local hydro systems.
According to the report, glaciers on the Tien Shan mountain ranges would shrink to half their size by the 2050s. Researchers from the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, which led the study, found that glacier melting is severely accelerated by rising temperatures in the northern regions of the Atlantic and Pacific.
This means that during summer warm rainfall erodes even more the Tien Shan glaciers, study shows. Researchers believe that unusually high temperatures generated by climate change may make the process even worse.
But the melt of glaciers does not only affect local crops and hydro systems, it could also spark conflicts over sharing the sources of fresh water. The problem is an old issue in the region especially now when population is continuously growing.
Tien Shan’s glaciers have seven times more ice than the Alps in Europe, but they lost nearly 30 percent of their mass in about 50 years since 1961. The research team used data collected from ground instruments and space satellites to calculate the ice loss and found that every year the mountain range loses 5.4 billion tons of ice which is nearly four times what other glaciers are losing during the same period across the world.
Though river flows reached unprecedented levels, scientists believe that when there’s no glacier left they would dwindle and affect the local ecosystem.
“Currently we are in the golden phase, with relatively much water. But what could happen is quite worrisome,”
noted Daniel Farinotti, senior author of the study with the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences.
Scientists also explained that the water resulted from the glacier thawing on the mountain ranges help the countries in Central Asia including the north-western parts of China to be the world’s largest irrigated stretches of land. If water sources start to dwindle, the lowland regions and their crops would be severely affected on the long-run.
Three years ago, the Uzbek President acknowledged that the scarce water resources in the region may fuel a military conflict that was reined in by the former Soviet Union before Uzbekistan claimed independence.
Image Source: Deviantart
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