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Montevideo, December 7th 2016 - 18:15 UTC

Climate change devouring Andean glaciers and source of fresh water for millions

Wednesday, January 23rd 2013 - 09:27 UTC
Full article 13 comments
The Andes rocky bottom exposed as glaciers retreat The Andes rocky bottom exposed as glaciers retreat

Climate change has shrunk Andean glaciers between 30% and 50% since the 1970s and could melt many of them away altogether in coming years, according to a study published on Tuesday in the journal Cryosphere.

Andean glaciers, a vital source of fresh water for tens of millions of South Americans, are retreating at their fastest rates in more than 300 years, according to the most comprehensive review of Andean ice loss so far.

The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers in South America, and blamed the ice loss on an average temperature spike of 0.7 degree Celsius (1.26 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 70 years.

“Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented,” said Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study and a scientist with the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France.

The researchers also warned that future warming could totally wipe out the smaller glaciers found at lower altitudes that store and release fresh water for downstream communities.

“This is a serious concern because a large proportion of the population lives in arid regions to the west of the Andes,” said Rabatel.

The Chacaltaya glacier in the Bolivian Andes, once a ski resort, has already disappeared completely, according to some scientists.
 

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  • Idlehands

    If it's the fastest rate for 300 years then what was causing it 300 years ago? The CO2 produced by soldiers huffing and puffing their way around the world?

    To believe it's AGW due to industrialisation it needs to be the most rapid since the thaw of the last ice age.

    Jan 23rd, 2013 - 10:53 am 0
  • Shed-time

    Well, we do complain about the weather in the UK, but it's fundamentally quite rainy, which is nice for drinking water, and the climate is good for growing things. So, we're not in a bad position really.

    Moral to the tale... if South Americans insist on cutting down all their rainforests causing huge amounts of CO2 to be unfiltered from the atmosphere, then they shouldn't complain about their ice melting, lack of fertile land for crops or the fact everyone dies in a mega-drought.

    Jan 23rd, 2013 - 11:46 am 0
  • Idlehands

    What I hate about the AGW debate is that even the experts can't agree so how are we supposed to know.

    However they have never shown that even if it's true that reducing carbon emissions now will reverse the problem. I believe the money is better spent adapting to the situation while we master cleaner energy - not throwing cash into a bottomless pit.

    Jan 23rd, 2013 - 12:09 pm 0
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