MENGKE GLACIER, China — Over the years, Qin Xiang and his fellow scientists at a high and lonely research station in the Qilian Mountains of northwest China have tracked the inexorable effects of rising temperatures on one of China’s most important water sources.
“The thing most sensitive to climate change is a glacier,” said Dr. Qin, 42, as he slowly trod across an icy field of the Mengke Glacier, one of the country’s largest. “In the 1970s, people thought glaciers were permanent. They didn’t think that glaciers would recede. They thought this glacier would endure. But then the climate began changing, and temperatures climbed.”