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Glaciers may be gone in 65 years, Kazakhstan may face water shortages: Dr Severskiy 31 июля 2015, 18:40

Dzhungar Alatau glaciers can disappear by 2080 and Kazakhstan will be experiencing water shortages, said Doctor of Geographical Sciences Igor Severskiy.
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Photo © Nikolay Kolesnikov Photo © Nikolay Kolesnikov

Dzhungar Alatau glaciers can disappear by 2080 and Kazakhstan will be experiencing water shortages, Tengrinews reports citing Doctor of Geographical Sciences Igor Severskiy.

Dr. Severskiy, a member of the Academy of Sciences of Kazakhstan, has been studying Central Asian glaciers for several decades. According to the scientist, the glaciers feeding Kazakhstani rivers are degrading fast.

For example, the top crust of the Tuyuksu Glacier in Zailiyskiy Alatau has subsided by 24 meters since 1957 with millions of tons of ice melting into 58 million cubic meters of run off water. 

In 1973-1976, the local glaciers were at the peak of loosing their mass because of high temperatures. The loss rate made more then 3% per year then. As a result, the rainfall decreased 3.5 times in comparison to the previous years.

Now the body loss rate in the Ili-Kungey, Dzhugar, Upper-Ili and Irtysh glacier systems that feed the Chilik, Irtysh, Ili, Korgas, Karatal, Aksu, Lepsy, Tentek and other rivers makes around 0.75% per year.

According to the scientist, if the trend persists, the glacier system of Dzhungar Alatau will have disappeared by 2080, Ile Alatau glaciers and Altay system glaciers feeding the Irtysh River will be gone by 2085, the glaciers feeding the Ob River – by 2580, Eastern Pamir glaciers – by 2660 and Western Pamir glaciers – by 2730.

He added however, that there was a possibility of a reverse process that would stop the degradation of the glaciers. Dr. Severskiy explained that the solar activity will decrease by 2030 and cause a small 'ice age'. Siting palaeoglaciological studies of ancient glaciers the scientist said that historically there had been examples of rapid 'glaciation' of the Earth when the changes happened in a short span of 10 to 15 years.

"There is no reason to expect anything extraordinary to happen and start the reverse process, but there is no denying that such an event is possible. In the 2030s scientists are expecting something like a small 'ice age' to begin and last for around 70 years, because the solar activity will decrease by 50-60%. Maybe then the glaciers will start gaining mass again," he said.

"As for now, the outlook for the nearest decade is that the glacial systems will continue behaving the way they have been for the past 60 years", they will continue melting, he said.

If the glacier melting continues, a number of countries will face food security problems and water shortages. A lot of Central Asian countries depend on the melt water coming from the Tien Shan and Pamir-Altay glaciers. 85% of their run-off is used for farming irrigation.

The scientist added that glacier water was responsible for almost 33% of the total river run off in Kazakhstan, of this amount the 'old' glaciers were responsible for 10-20%.

"You know that the water problem is acute not only in Central Asian, it is one of the biggest in the world. Kazakhstan is among the most vulnerable countries in this respect, because nearly 50% of its water come from other countries (the Ural River flows from Russia, the Irtysh and Ili Rivers - from China, the Syrdarya River - from Turkmenistan)," Dr. Severskiy said.

Reporting by Dmitriy Khegai, writing by Gyuzel Kamalova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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