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Asian glaciers make a hasty retreat

Nature volume 524, page 268 (20 August 2015) | Download Citation

The Tien Shan mountain range of Central Asia (pictured) lost more than one-quarter of its glacier mass in the past half-century, and may lose a further 50% by 2050.

Image: Evgeny Dubinchuk/Alamy

Daniel Farinotti of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam and his colleagues used satellite data and glacier models to reconstruct changes in glacier mass and area over the past 50 years, extending previous decadal records. They found that glacier mass fell by more than 25% from 1961 to 2012 — four times the global average — and glacier area shrank by about 3,000 square kilometres.

As the climate warms, regional summer melt water will probably decrease, putting the water supply at risk in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and parts of China where populations are rising, the authors say.

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