The study, published in the academic journal The Cryosphere, blamed the melting glaciers on the temperature rise—specifically, the rise of 0.7C from 1950 to 1994. As a result, glaciers at lower altitudes (below 5,400 mm) have lost roughly 1.35 m in ice thickness annually after the late 1970s.
“Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades,” said lead author Antoine Rabatel, from the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France, to BBC.
And that’s not all. According to an Ohio State University glaciologist, the ice that took the Andes 1,600 years to form has melted in a mere 25 years. Lonnie G. Thompson reveals that preliminary evidence suggests that “the earth probably went through a period of anomalous weather at around the time of the French Revolution, which began in 1789,” according to the New York Times.
The New York Times shares:
The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago.
Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins.
These glaciers are crucial, as they provide fresh water in South America for tens of millions of people. BBC shares more about the problems of the melting glaciers in the Andes:
Without changes in rainfall, the region could face water shortages in the future, the scientists say.
The Santa River valley in Peru could be most affected; its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption, and hydropower.
Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. “Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season,” said co-author Alvaro Soruco from the Institute of Geological and Environmental Investigations in Bolivia.
Photo by Dominic Alves