"The shrinkage generally decreases from the Himalayas to the continental interior and is smallest in the western part. Some glaciers there are even growing."

He said changes in the glaciers will be accelerated if the planet continues to warm.

Potential consequences would be unsustainable water supplies from major rivers and geo-hazards, such as glacier lake expansion and flooding, which could threaten the well-being of people downstream.

Ongoing research over more than 30 years has also brought scientists a new understanding of pollution on the Tibetan Plateau, said Yao.

"There were two prevailing views in the past. One was that there was no pollution, the other was that the pollution must come from the east, if there was any at all."

But the latest investigations now show that black carbon generated from industrial production in South Asia is being taken to the Tibetan Plateau by the Indian monsoon in spring and summer.

The pollutants are coming from the west, not east, the scientist said.

"The accumulation of black carbon on the plateau will accelerate the shrinking of glaciers, bringing with it persistent organic pollutants that will be deposited in the soil."

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