The data comes as no surprise to other scientists. Temperatures in the Alps have likewise increased by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius per year, and glaciers are melting worldwide. Still, Andreas Bauder, a glaciologist from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, pointed to a somewhat inconsistent data pool used in the Chinese study. "The time spans studied in the individual glacier areas are in part very different and thus difficult to compare with one another," he told SPIEGEL ONLINE.
In their paper, Zongxing Li and his colleagues also say that "limited observation" in these regions rules out "discussion of a qualitative relationship between climate change and glacier behaviour in southwestern China." Indeed, "the complexity of climate change and glacier dynamic response to it require long-term observation," they add.
This conclusion was driven by two inconsistencies. While increased temperature and precipitation in the Hengduan Mountains lead to glacial shrinkage, they found that similar conditions yielded glacial growth in the Gangrigabu Mountains.
"Different glaciers behave in different ways and timescales, so it is important to monitor change of glaciers over the long-term," the researchers wrote.