The popular ice festival here — based on a local tradition of making ice lanterns and sculpting snow that reaches back almost 1,400 years to the Tang Dynasty — has been undercut by climbing temperatures. Heads are falling from statues and intricately sculpted ice animals are turning into shapeless blobs.
For Harbin, a usually frigid city in northeast China about 400 miles east of the Russian border, the rise in temperatures is a direct threat to a tourist attraction that brought in 5 million visitors last year and injects millions of dollars into the local economy through tickets, hotel stays, restaurant meals and taxi rides.
The China Meteorological Administration predicted recently that temperatures will likely continue to rise, by the year 2100 climbing by 7 to 10.8 degrees over the average temperatures between 1961 and 1990. By 2050, the meteorologists predicted, the glaciers of China’s far northwest mountains will have shrunk by 27 percent if present trends continue. [Full Text]