The height of Qomolangma Peak, usually known to Westerners as Mount Everest, dropped 1.3 meters in the 33 years ending in 1999, according to a survey released at a recent international symposium on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau held in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The mountain shrank from 8,849.8 meters to 8,848.5 meters during the period.
Altitude loss during the 1966–1975 period was about 0.1 meter per year. The rate declined to 0.01 meter between 1975 and 1992, but again accelerated to nearly 0.1 meter from 1992 to 1998.
The exact thickness of snow atop Qomolangma remains unknown, but an Italian mountaineering team determined that it may range from just over 2.5 meters to scores of meters.
Global warming accelerates the process of conversion from soft snow to ice. Consolidation of glaciers has also led to the shrinkage of Mount Qomolangma, according to Yao Tandong, director of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Research Institute, a branch of the prestigious Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Yao believes that Chinese glaciers are shrinking overall at an unprecedented rate, and he has gave concerns about the future of people living on oases in western China. They account for about 23 percent of the country’s total population.
Water released from glaciers has long been the lifeline of their oases. But glacial shrinkage, which started in the 1950s, has already cost as much as 586.9 billion cubic meters of water, roughly 10 times the volume of the Yellow River.
Additional runoff from the melting glaciers provides little benefit, as the water vaporizes long before it reaches the country’s drought-stricken farmers in northern and western China. Global warming is also the cause of this phenomenon.
(Xinhua News Agency, China.org.cn September 1, 2004)