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February 5, 2010

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Roof of the world is getting hotter

THE "roof of the world" is getting warmer.

The average temperature in southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region was 5.9 degrees Celsius last year, 1.5 degrees higher than average and the highest in almost four decades, according to latest figures released by the regional climate center.

The 2009 climate report, issued by the center yesterday, was based on meteorological data collected from 38 observatories across Tibet, said project leader Zhang Hezhen, a specialist with the regional weather bureau.

"Temperature changes were observed almost everywhere," said Zhang.

The average temperature across Tibet spanned from minus 1 to 13.6 degrees last year, 0.8 to 2.3 degrees higher than normal, she said. "Average temperatures recorded at 29 observatories reached record highs."

Zhang said temperature rises occurred in both summer and winter. "On the hottest summer days in Lhasa, the high temperature reached 30.4 degrees last year, compared with the record 29.9 degrees of 1971."

In Xigaze, the maximum daytime temperature hit 32.5 degrees, 0.5 degree higher than the previous record.

The maximum temperature at the base camp of Mount Qomolangma, also known as Mt Everest, the world's highest peak, reached 25.8 degrees, 0.7 degree higher than the previous record.

Zhang and her colleagues also observed a drop of rainfall by at least 20 percent. "Tibet received an average precipitation of 363 millimeters last year, the lowest in 39 years."

The worst drought in decades affected Lhasa and Xigaze, Shannan, Nyingchi and Qamdo prefectures last summer and forced residents to buy bottled water or carry water for miles.

Consequently, Xigaze's Lhaze County suffered a locust plague after 23 hot, rainless days.

The regional government said more than 740 hectares of cropland was plagued by pests last year, as a result of sustained drought.

The Tibet plateau, with an average altitude above 4,000 meters, is a "magnifier" of global warming as it is more sensitive to temperature changes, said China Meteorological Administration chief Zheng Guoguang.

Since meteorological records began in Tibet in 1961, the mercury had climbed an average 0.32 degree every decade, much higher than the national average of 0.05-0.08 degree.


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