Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features China’s Tien Shan mountain range covered in snow and ice. The photograph is part of a wintertime series captured by astronauts on the International Space Station.
“The Tien Shan – which means heavenly mountains in Chinese – is one of the largest mountain ranges in the world, extending approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) across Central Asia, mostly along the border between Kyrgyzstan and China. The photo shows ridges of the central part of the range, in Xinjiang, China, situated between the Taklamakan Desert and Lake Issyk-Kul,” says NASA.
“Glaciers cover roughly 13,000 square kilometers of the Tien Shan’s slopes and are a crucial source of water for nearby famers and residents. Meltwater from the range’s glaciers recharges surface water and groundwater used in northwest China as well as Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.”
Scientists recently analyzed water supplies in northwest China using data from NASA’s Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE). The study revealed that increasing demands have contributed to a reduced storage of water in this region.
At the same time, rising temperatures are causing glaciers to melt more than usual in the summer. According to NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat), glacier extent on Tien Shan decreased by about 18 percent from 1961 to 2012.
“Although increased summer melt may be a short-term boon to farmers, in the long-term, diminishing glacier volume will continue to deplete an already shrinking store of water,” says NASA.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory
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