Tibetan Glaciers Reported Melting at Rapid Rate

Glaciers in western China's Qinghai-Tibet plateau, known as the "roof of the world," are melting at a rate of 7 percent annually due to global warming, the country's official Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said the figure is drawn from data from China's 681 weather stations over four decades.

Statistics from the Tibet weather bureau show that average temperatures in Tibet have risen by 0.9 degree Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the 1980s, Xinhua reported, quoting Han Yongxiang of the National Meteorological Bureau.

The glaciers in the Qinghai-Tibet plateau account for 47 percent of China's total glacier coverage, according to Xinhua.

The melting glaciers will eventually lead to drought, more desertification and an increase in the number of sandstorms, Xinhua quoted researcher Dong Guangrong at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as saying.

The spread of deserts and sandstorms are already pressing problems in China.

The severity of China's sandstorms was highlighted by the onslaught of 300,000 metric tons (330,000 tons) of dust in capital Beijing two weeks ago. Dust was blown as far away as South Korea and Tokyo.

Beijing has approved programs to reclaim land by planting hardy grasses and shrubs on 30 percent of the country's 700,000 square miles of desert by 2050.

Workers have already planted thousands of acres of vegetation to stop the spread of deserts in China's north and west.